Machine shops across the country have a daily need for the ability to precisely and consistently cut metal. Laser cutting machines have been around for a long time, providing clean and accurate cuts in a variety of materials.

One specialist form of laser cutting is laser tube cutting—which is, as the name suggests, optimized for cutting cylindrical objects. Why would a fabrication shop want to use a laser tube cutting machine? What are the benefits of being able to provide laser tube cutting services?

Here are some of the potential benefits of having a laser tube cutting machine:

1) Reducing Secondary Operations in Cutting Tubes

Cutting a tube with a physical blade often leaves metal shavings and imperfections in the cut edge. These issues would require additional cleaning and shaping processes to prepare the tube for whatever purpose it would be intended for.

However, when using a laser tube cutting machine with a spatter guard device, not only are the edges virtually perfect, the slag from the cutting process can be collected and kept out of the tube being cut. This eliminates the need for these two processes.

While a traditional laser cutting machine could also create clean cuts, its design would not be able to accommodate the tube, which would mean having to cut a flat piece of metal and then putting it through a roller or press brake (depending on whether you wanted a rounded or squared exterior). By using a tube cutting machine, you can cut a tube-shaped object directly.

2) Stronger Tube Ends

Another benefit of using a laser tube cutting machine, aside from creating smoother cuts, is that no mechanical force has to be applied to the cut. Normally, a CNC punch or other machine would break through the material being cut with physical force, applying stress to the surrounding material and weakening it slightly. Using a laser cutter helps to ensure that tubes are stronger at the point of the cut than they would be if physical cutting tools were used.

3) Diversity of Cutting Processes

CNC machinery enables a high degree of control and precision for many tasks—and CNC controlled laser cutting is no exception. Instead of simply making vertical cuts, laser tube cutting machines can be used to make angle cuts, slots, etchings, bevel cuts, and more depending on the equipment.

While traditional laser cutters can also do many of these tasks, they aren’t optimized for doing so with cylindrical objects.

4) Laser Tube Cutting Machines Can Fill a Niche Role

If your machine shop processes a lot of requests for custom-shaped or cut tubes, having a laser tube cutting machine can fill that niche quite nicely. Because these machines are optimized for this process, they can help to improve efficiency and throughput for making custom-cut tubing.

5) Low Maintenance Cutting

Physical cutting machines require frequent service and repair because their tooling wears out quickly. However, laser cutting machines don’t wear out nearly as fast. In fact, if you use a solid-state laser tube cutting machine (meaning one that uses a solid object to focus the laser) rather than a gas-based one, you can keep the laser operating almost maintenance-free for thousands of hours.

Of course, the physical mechanisms for moving the laser or the workpiece will still need regular maintenance.

Looking for a Laser Tube Cutting Machine for Sale?

If you’re thinking about purchasing a laser tube cutting machine, consider the following:

  • What Kind of Laser Do I Need? Like regular laser cutters, laser tube cutting machines have some different options for the cutting laser. Common laser types include CO2 cutting machines and fiber laser tube cutting machines. This can impact the tightness of the beam and cut consistency. For example, fiber laser tube cutting machines have a beam that is much smaller than a CO2 cutting machine’s because they use a solid (glass fiber) for amplifying and focusing the laser rather than a gas (CO2).

  • Should I Buy New or Used? The answer to this question depends on how much you need a specific feature or capability. If a must-have feature is only available on a new model, then it could be worth it. Otherwise, stick with a used machine from a reputable seller. A used laser tube cutting machine costs far less than a new one while doing just as much work with the same level of precision.

  • What Features Do I Need, and Which Ones Do I Want? When purchasing a laser cutting machine, whether new or used, consider which features are “must-haves” and which ones are “nice-to-haves.” A “nice-to-have” feature might be beneficial or save time, but not necessarily be critical to your operation. A “must-have” feature is one that would prove crucial for completing your most common manufacturing operations. For example, if you need to make bevel cuts a lot, then a machine that can perform such cuts would be a “must-have.” Otherwise, that feature is just a “nice-to-have.” Basically, don’t get caught up in chasing a bunch of features you don’t actually need because finding one machine with every “nice-to-have” feature you want will cost far more than a more basic machine that fills your most critical needs.

  • Is the Machine “Free and Clear?” If buying used, is the machine free of any equipment liens, loans, or other obligations where a creditor or some other party might claim ownership? It’s important to verify this prior to paying any used laser tube cutting machine’s price—otherwise, you could pay a hefty price only to watch a lawyer and a couple of repo guys cart the machine away just after you get it set up.

That last consideration is definitely worth worrying about, as it is all too common in private party sales for the buyer to forget to check—only to regret it later.

If you need help finding the right used laser tube cutting machine for your shop—one that is well-maintained, free of equipment liens, and meets all of your needs without making you pay for too many features you won’t use—contact the experts at SFMS today! We’ll help you find the perfect laser tube cutter for your machine shop. If we don’t have one right now, we’ll check with our partners and let you know as soon as one is available!

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