Even though fiber laser cuttJasa Laser Cutting Medan ing technology (left) was introduced to the metal fabricating market for the first time in 2008, Jasa Laser Cutting Jasa Laser Cutting Medan it has managed to emerge as the laser technology of choice for most fabricators. CO2 technology (right), which dominated the market for many years, still is attractive for some applications, but it represents only a small fraction of laser cutting equipment sold today.” data-fancybox=”gallery” href=”https://cdn.thefabricator.com/a/a-guide-for-finding-the-right-laser-cutting-machine-1515071357.jpg?size=1000×1000″ rel=”gallery”>
Even though fiber laser cutting technology (left) was introduced to the metal fabricating market for the first time in 2008, it has managed to emerge as the laser technology of choice for most fabricators. CO2 technology (right), which dominated the market for many years, still is attractive for some applications, but it represents only a small fraction of laser cutting equipment sold today.
For most manufacturers, buying an industrial laser cutting machine is a major investment. It’s not just the initial price you pay, but the fact that the purchase will have a great impact on the entire manufacturing process. If the wrong equipment is chosen, you have to live with the decision for quite a long time. It is not unusual to see manufacturers keep a laser for seven to 10 years.
Do you know the best way to go about purchasing a laser cutting machine? Even if you currently own one, how long ago did you buy it, and what has changed since then?
This guide should help you in making a capital purchase decision that will drive your manufacturing operations to new heights.What’s the Application?
Perhaps the real question is, “Should I even be buying a laser cutting machine?” For many reasons, investing in a different cutting system may make more sense for a company’s manufacturing activities. Investigating all available options can minimize any possible regrets in the future.
Depending on the part volume, a stamping press may deliver the lowest cost per part. When speaking of metal forming in a press, however, you also are talking about the need to invest in tooling. Stamping also presents the ability to perform multiple tasks, such as forming and tapping, as part of the production process.
A traditional turret punch press can cut out holes and shapes economically, but, again, it involves tooling. A punching machine also can’t match the production speeds of laser cutting machines. As with a stamping press, some forming can be done on the punch press.
A high-definition plasma system is good for thick materials and for applications in which the edge quality isn’t critical. An abrasive waterjet also is good for thick materials and for applications in which the metal can’t have a heat-affected zone, which is a dilema with most thermal cutting methods. Both plasma and waterjet cutting systems cost less than laser cutting machines, but many times do not match the laser’s cutting speed. Of course, plasma cutting and waterjet systems can boost productivity with the use of multiple heads and the ability to cut stacked blanks; the application obviously would influence what exactly you need.Do We Really Need to Invest in Laser Cutting?
A company that doesn’t have a laser cutting machine generally subcontracts the work to one or several job shops with that capability. This scenario doesn’t involve a lot of risk and can work if you have some flexibility with lead times.
But there will come that time when you have to ask yourself if it is time for the company to bring laser cutting in-house. This has to be considered even if the business relationship with the subcontractor is great.
How do you know if it is the right time to own a laser? Look at how much you are spending monthly for laser-cut parts. In the words of Henry Ford, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”Figure 2danlt;/strong>
If you think an operator is going to be able to keep up with manually loading sheets on a pallet system feeding a fiber laser, you might want to think again. The speed of modern laser cutting machines requires fabricators to think hard about what sort of material handling automation should accompany any new laser device.” data-fancybox=”gallery” href=”https://cdn.thefabricator.com/a/a-guide-for-finding-the-right-laser-cutting-machine-1515071362.jpg?size=1000×1000″ rel=”gallery”>
If you think an operator is going to be able to keep up with manually loading sheets on a pallet system feeding a fiber laser, you might want to think again. The speed of terbaru laser cutting machines requires fabricators to think hard about what sort of material handling automation should accompany any new laser device.
If the decision is made to bring laser cutting in-house, you may be put in a position where you need to justify why the investment needs to be made. The costs associated with subcontracting out the laser cutting are just the starting point for the justification. How much more productive will the manufacturing process be with in-house laser cutting? How does this affect lead times? From an expense standpoint, not only do you have the cost of the laser cutting machine, you have labor and consumable costs, such as laser cutting assist gas.
Figuring out these answers will give upper management or even a lending institution an idea about production savings and subsequent return on investment following the initial investment.What Does It Mean to Control the Laser Cutting Process?
Other than monetary issues, when manufacturers offer reasons as to why they are looking at purchasing a laser cutting machine, they mention “control.” Ask yourself these questions to see if you fall into this category:How many times have we lost business because of late delivery?Have we ever had to reject parts because of poor quality?How would it help our image if we had our own laser cutting capabilities?Who Should We Buy the Laser Cutting Machine From?
As a manufacturer, you have numerous sources to purchase a laser cutting machine. There are dealers that specialize in used equipment and original equipment manufacturers that offer state-of-the-art cutting equipment and even refurbished machines that may not have the production prowess of new machines, but still can perform much more efficiently than machines of a similar age with no rework done to them.
Ask the OEMs questions about service availability. Today’s technology does not require as much maintenance, but when a machine goes down, you’ll want it back up and running as soon as possible. Also find out about parts availability and delivery. Again, a laser cutting machine that can’t cut because of a damaged part just doesn’t cut it.
Be aware that laser cutting machines from OEMs that are recognizable in the industry typically have higher resale values.CO2 or Fiber Technology?
Two types of lasers currently make up a majority of the industrial market: traditional CO2 gas lasers and newer solid-state fiber lasers (see Figure 1). CO2 lasers have been the workhorses of the metal fabricating industry for the previous two decades. These lasers operate by running electricity through a gas-filled resonator (which includes CO2) and using mirrors to focus and deliver the beam. In a fiber laser, banks of diodes are used to create the laser, and it is channeled and amplified through fiber-optic cable, similar to that used in the telecommunication industry.
The fiber laser, which made its debut around 2008, has lower operating costs and delivers higher cutting speeds than the CO2 laser. Early on the fiber technology could cut at these higher speeds only on thin materials, but with the advent of more powerful lasers, fiber lasers are demonstrating robust cutting speeds even in 0.5-in.-thick material. As a result, fiber lasers tend to be a popular choice, despite their higher price.
Also, fiber technology may open new opportunities for a fabricator. These machines can cut reflective material, such as brass and copper, whereas it is difficult for CO2 lasers.
Some applications still remain better suited to CO2 lasers, such as applications that require good edge quality on thicker or specialized materials. Also, some manufacturers may feel comfortable with CO2 technology because they’ve used it for several years, and the company has in-house maintenance expertise.