If your machine shop or manufacturing plant looking for ways to be more efficient and increase productivity? If you answered YES, then you’ll need to learn the difference between Plasma Cutting and Laser Cutting. You will also need to know the pros and cons of each and which purposes they’re best suited for. So what’s the difference between a hi-definition plasma and a laser cutting machine? What benefits do they bring? You’re about to find out!

What Is Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting is a technique that involves a power source that generates intense heat through a plasma stream. This plasma stream controlled by a CNC controller is positioned and moved over a conductive piece of material to cut, or rather burn, profiles into and out of that metal. Plasma cutting machines in general are much less expensive to purchase, simpler to operate (more forgiving of conditions) than their counterparts, laser cutting machines. 

What Is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a technique that uses an intense light source to produce heat and like the plasma cutting machine is controlled by a CNC Motion controller to move the cutting head over materials to burn, or vaporize the material away. Unlike the plasma cutting system the laser machine does not need the material to be conductive but due to the small size of the beam is more limited in material thicknesses. The cutting laser is prized for its precision, accuracy, speed, and overall efficiency in thinner materials.  

A high-quality laser cutting machine makes it also possible to cut and etch simultaneously which greatly improves workflow and speeds up the production process. Machine shops using laser cutting machines can easily outperform less progressive outfits that rely solely on plasma cutting equipment, provided the materials fall within the range of acceptability for their lasers capacity. If a shop is working with very precise fabricated components in gauge material thicknesses and laser cutting system is the right choice.

When to Use Each Metal Fabrication Process

If you are working “Plate Steel” or “Hot Rolled” or “Pickled and Oiled” steels then likely a plasma cutting system is best suited for your needs. Generally work processed from these materials requires only a fractional tolerance due to latter forming and welding operations. Also these materials do not perform well in laser cutting conditions due to the surface scale.

If you're working with part tolerances in the 3 decimal place range materials in Gauge thicknesses, Cold rolled steel, Stainless steel and Aluminum a laser cutting machine is likely better suited for your needs.    

The Advantages of Laser Cutters Over Plasma Cutters

The primary advantage that laser cutting has over a plasma cutting system is speed, precision, and efficiency. The plasma cutting system has its applications to be sure, but when it comes to metal fabrication in which you’re working with large sheets of metal that need to be cut precisely, laser cutting wins over plasma cutting nearly every single time. 

Remember, time is money which means that anything that can help you save time will help you save money as well. If you need a lot of thicker and rougher work made, go ahead and use plasma. If you need to work on large sheets of metal, that are ¾” or thinner, a laser cutting machine will be your new best friend. 

Check Out Our Wide Inventory of New and Used Metal Fabricating Machinery!

When you want the best Plasma cutting or laser cutting equipment you can find it all at Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales. We carry a stellar selection of used and new machinery at refreshingly low prices. 

Whether you want used or new, Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales has the equipment for you! 

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