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The sheet metal industry has benefited from several new technologies in recent years. Lasers, waterjets, and laser technology have led the way in that regard. Here is a quick rundown of those technologies and how they work.
There are two types of laser cutting: CO2 and fiber optic. CO2 works by using a gas concoction to create a laser beam. This beam can then cut through metal in a straighter line and at much faster speeds than traditional methods. It also leaves a smoother finish. Fiber Optic Laser Cutting also provides increased speed and precision. This method works by fiber optics transferring energy to the material that then converts to heat. This heat then melts the material.
This technique involves intense heat that separates the material into pieces. It needs a source of heat combined with oxygen. As long as the oxide that is formed from the heat and oxygen has a lower melting point than the material being manipulated, then the material will sever. Aluminum has a melting point up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit and the oxide’s melting point is 5,000 Fahrenheit, so it is difficult to flame cut. This is often the type of cutting you might see in the movies during a bank heist.
Plasma cutting involves using a stream of electrically ionized gas. This method works well with brass, copper, and steel. It is often used with industrial CNC applications because it is more cost-effective than other techniques. This method uses an electrical path of plasma through the plasma cutter and material being worked on. This completed electrical circuit goes from the cutter to a clamp for grounding. Compressed gas is also blown onto the material that creates an electrical arc that ionizes the gas and completes the channel.
Waterjet works well with thicker materials that are commonly hard to cut through. Water is projected onto the material at an extreme rate of pressure. This pressure is hard enough to cut through steel more cleanly than other methods.
These are just some of the newest and most commonly used technologies for sheet metal cutting.
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