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What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting machines use high powered, computer operated lasers along with nitrogen, oxygen or compressed air to slice through a variety of metals. Carbon dioxide laser cutting is also used to engrave metals. Laser cutting machines are multipurpose and can undertake a wide variety of metalwork jobs.  

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What is Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting uses compressed air and inert gasses such as hydrogen and nitrogen which are passed through a fine nozzle at high speeds. The combination of gasses, high speeds and a concentrated area of pressure create electrically conductive ionized gas, also known as plasma. This method is used on metals that cannot be cut with flame based cutting machines.

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There’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to metal cutting services

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The Real Differences Between Laser Cutting and Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting is exclusively used for cutting a variety of metals including stainless steel and aluminium. This includes metals with reflective surfaces, which cannot be manipulated by a laser cutting machine. Unlike plasma machines, laser cutters can be used for many other purposes including trimming, scribing, welding and engraving. A metal plasma cutting service is generally more affordable than laser, especially when comparing high-end plasma machines with high-end laser ones. This is mostly due to the cost of operating each machine on a daily basis and the speed at which each machine can work. Unsurprisingly, a machine that’s cheaper to run results in a finished product that’s most cost effective for your business. Plasma cutters have a smaller kerf compared to laser machines, meaning less metal is lost during profiling. However, laser cutting machines offer a slightly higher tolerance in comparison to plasma cutters, which minimises metal distortion. This also means they can cut and engrave very thin sheet metal without drastically affecting the material. Typically, plasma cutting machines are more widely used to manipulate sheet metal and plate metal that is thick and the most modern plasma machines, such as those used by ParkerSteel, can cut through metal with a thickness of up to 80mm. In opposition, laser cutters are better equipped for thinner, more intricate metals.


Laser vs. Plasma – The Benefits

Both laser and plasma cutting services offer their own unique advantages based on variables such as timeframes, job specifications and more.

Benefits of Laser Cutting

• High precision • CAD/CAM integration • High tolerance • High quality part replication • Ability to perform intricate cutting tasks • Low distortion

Benefits of plasma cutting

• Small Kerf • CAD/CAM integration • High quality finish • High quality part replication • Cost-effective • Reduced lead times

So, which cutting process is better? That depends on your needs. Plasma cutting is a smart choice for anyone working throughout the construction industry. Laser cutting is also primarily sought after in construction but can also be beneficial in other industries too, where more intricate metalwork is required.

Contact ParkerSteel to find the right laser or plasma cutting service for your needs.
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