It is possible to cut intricate designs in sheet metal with handheld and home shop tools. But it’s very labor-intensive and hard on your hands. A metal laser cutter can cut intricate designs in a matter of minutes. Best of all, it can repeatedly reproduce the same product with precision. Most people don’t have a metal laser cutter in their garage, of course, but a metal laser cutting service is more affordable than you might think.
How Does a Metal Laser Cutter Work?
Laser cutting is a non-contact, thermal-based fabrication process of cutting or trimming down a broad range of materials like wood, glass, plastic, paper, metal, gemstone, etc. with a high-powered laser beam. The process of cutting using a laser beam includes the generation of the beam, focusing, localized heating, melting, removal of waste materials, and the movement of the beam.
A metal laser cutter is the preferred tool to cut sheet metal. A metal laser offers higher operational safety, greater accuracy, precision, and high-quality edges. These metal laser cutters can be integrated with a profile cutter or can be hand-operated.
What Kind of Metal Laser Cutter Do I Need for my Project?
The power of the machine is an important factor to determine if it can cut through thick metal. So, before selecting a metal laser cutting service or a laser cutter, the power of that machine should be checked. Using a low powered machine with less than 100W power will not even put a scratch on thick sheets. A metal laser cutter needs to have at least 300-350W of power. You can have a metal laser cutter at home, but a machine with a power requirement this high can be expensive and huge. It is often better to go to a metal laser cutting service who can do this for you.
The first step in designing the sheet metal is to select the right kind of material to suit your requirement. You will have to decide the thickness of the sheet, which is measured in gauges. A thinner sheet would have a higher gauge number and vice versa.
Before cutting the metal, you will need to bend it using a sheet metal bending brake. This tool can be fairly expensive to own or rent, which brings us back to our previous point of leveraging a metal laser cutting service. The type of laser cutter and assisting gas you should use varies depending on the type of metal (aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel, mild steel) and the thickness of the metal.
Now, the fun part is to create the design that you want on the sheet metal. Laser cutting uses a 2D technology and you would need to use an application that facilitates 2D vector drawing to create your designs. Keep in mind that the cutting contours must be closed in order to remove the part from the sheet metal.
Once you have drawn the design on the software using the appropriate line thickness and color, you need to save it in the correct format that would be acceptable to the metal laser cutting service. A metal laser cutting service can also help create the design.
Cutting the design on the sheet metal can be done by manually operating the laser cutter or hooking it to a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) system. A CNC laser cutting machine can read complicated and intricate designs and produce a precise cut or engraving on the sheet metal. The final product does not require any further cleaning or finishing.
Pro Tip: If you want to cut or engrave multiple designs on the same sheet metal, make sure that you leave the distance of at least the material’s thickness between two designs so that you don’t burn away the material between two cutting lines.
Fox Valley Stamping knows how to cut intricate designs in sheet metal and we have the best CNC laser cutting machines to get the job done right. Contact Us today to learn more about our metal laser cutting service.