In recent years, many precision methods of sheet metal fabrication have emerged due to various advances in technology. One of these exciting technologies is the use of laser cutting to increase both efficiency and accuracy in the process of turning sheet metal into custom shapes and sizes.
Laser cutting machines can take a design and process the image before it is sent to the laser for output. In most sheet metal applications, the image only needs to be a series of vertical and horizontal coordinates that show where the flat surface needs to be cut into a pattern.
How does the laser work?
The laser that does the cutting is actually a single wavelength of the light spectrum that contains a lot of heat energy. Most carbon dioxide lasers use infra-red light that is not visible to humans. This concentrated and very hot beam can cut through most common metals that are regularly used for manufacturing and industrial applications.
Guiding the light
A small mirror (or multiple mirrors depending on the machine) will direct the beam onto tiny points to make sure the cutting is accurate and matches the design that was sent to the machine's processor. This piece of glass needs to be able to withstand extreme temperatures, as the laser will cut through most materials it touches. Most metals will either melt away or get completely burned into vapor during contact. The beam is also directed through a nozzle at the tip with gas pressure to push away any debris.
The distance from the laser to the target material also has to be maintained very accurately by the machinery. Maintaining this amount of depth is crucial for precision purposes, any most machines in use today will automatically adjust as needed during the cutting process to minimize the possibility of errors.
The final product
Ideally, the final piece of sheet metal should be free of things like stray holes or jagged edges. While the quality of cuts and the finished product can vary slightly and contain minor imperfections, this is still the best way to produce custom pieces of sheet metal. Companies that use laser cutting machines can rely on this method to have a high volume of output that satisfies customer needs.