Often Fabricators are stuck in a rut of manufacturing. Refraining to upgrade to new or newer technology because they don’t have the work, and yet not being able to get the work because they don’t have the equipment to make the components, or worse, to make the components profitably. As manufacturers we have all faced this dilemma and very few of us have had opportunities to purchase new equipment based on solid orders with deliveries suitable enough to cover the equipment delivery and installation time frame. Considering this, when should you upgrade?  


In the past, quality Fiber Laser cutting systems were in the 500-600K range and above. However today we can provide quality US-Built Fiber Lasers for UNDER 250K and that means a monthly payment of around 4K. With numbers this low that brings the bar down well within the reach of many shops. So what other factors should you consider? In this specific article we look at the factors that you should strongly consider when moving from waterjet to a new Fiber Laser Cutting system.


Material Type: Material Type can be a big determining factor in upgrading from a waterjet to a fiber laser. If you primarily cutting steels a fiber laser makes more sense as it is much more cost efficient to run, and in general, will produce parts faster than a waterjet cutting system. Adversely if you primarily cut Aluminum a waterjet, in general, is still your best bet. However thicknesses of materials can also play a very important factor in determining which process is best suited for you.


Material Thickness: Thicknesses of materials can be an important factor as well in your waterjet to fiber laser upgrade decision.  If your generally working with Mild Steels in the ⅝” range and under, Stainless steels in the 3/8” range and under, and Aluminum Alloys in the ¼”  range and thinner then you are right in the work zone of an affordable Fiber Laser. Adversely if your working with thick Aluminum, 1.5” - 2.0” Steels, or Stainless Steels over ½” then the Waterjet Cutting method is still likely the most efficient solution.


Quantities: Are your quantities of parts increasing? If so a fiber laser can be just the answer you're looking for as increased part quantities help to further justify an already very justifiable.  Remember waterjets are all about CAPABILITY and Lasers lean much more towards the CAPACITY side of the equation. The more quantities your part runs are, the more justifiable a fiber laser cutting system becomes.


Affordability: Certainly one factor to ask is “Can I afford it?”.  As we previously mentioned, in the past new fiber laser systems were imported from Europe or Japan and were well into the Half Million and up range pushing monthly payments to 10K-15K … or more. These initial designs were also slow to grasp the concept that the Fiber Laser technology brought with it; the reduced building expenses, the reduced drive and controller systems required, the reduced gasses, cooling etc all that led to a much more efficient , and thus affordable design. Not willing to miss the opportunity the eastern Asian manufacturers jumped into the fray with low cost, but poorly supported, options making the decision to stay put in waterjet still a relatively easy one.


Now with quality US-Built Systems starting under 250K (like Polaris Laser built in Dallas, TX ) a buyer only has to consider an estimated payment of 3500-$5K per month (depending on the exact configuration and capacity needed) with knowledge that support is local and easily available. Also a buyer should consider the drastically reduced operating costs of Fiber Lasers which range in the $10-11 p/hour range vs. the $30-$35+ p/hour range for a waterjet. Coupled with increased cutting speeds the fiber laser can be a great choice to upgrade to, or make a great  addition to your shops cutting capability.


Whether your looking to trade-in or trade-up to Fiber Laser technology the experts at Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales, Inc. can help you achieve your goal.  We will give you all the options and help you make the best decision for your shop AND budget. Visit us on the web at WWW.SOUTHERNFABSALES.COM or call us today at 813-444-4555 for more info.

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