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How Accurate Is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a highly advanced industrial technology used to accurately and efficiently slice metals and other materials for manufacturing. Despite the advancements in technology and the growing popularity of laser cutting machines, many people still wonder whether laser cutting works and how accurate it is.

In this guide to laser cutting accuracy, we’ll discuss what makes laser cutting so accurate and explain the factors that affect laser cutting. We’ll also offer tips on how to improve laser cutting precision for a smoother, cleaner product.

What Makes Laser Cutting Accurate?

Precision laser cutting is an efficient, safe and highly accurate cutting method compared to conventional sheet metal cutting methods. A laser cutter is a computer-operated program designed to precisely cut material within a specific cutting tolerance, also known as an acceptable accuracy range. Laser cutters are usually integrated with CAD software that tells the laser what to cut. Because it’s computer-guided, laser cutting is a lot easier to operate than traditional cutting methods, making it safer, too.

If you’re wondering how accurate precision laser cutting is, here are some of the factors that determine its high accuracy:

  • Coherent photons: A laser cutter’s cutting mechanism is delivered by a consistent stream of photons. Each photon is coherently synchronized, amounting to one steady and intense beam of energy, rather than scattered energy that wouldn’t be precise. This steady beam of light extends straight down from the laser head to the material, slicing precisely through the metal, glass or another product.
  • Low laser cutting tolerances: Because laser beams are controlled by computers, the resulting cut has a very low tolerance — its range of variation from the intended design. Compared to a person performing the cut, the laser is able to work faster and much more accurately than manual cutting and can make identical, rapid cuts each time.
  • Fiber optics precision: New and advanced laser cutters use fiber optics lenses to guide and control the laser positioning from the laser head — this makes the point of precision that much clearer and more direct for the laser beam.
  • Less material damage: Because laser cutting is so accurate, it does less damage to the material surrounding the cut, which is common with other cutting methods. The laser beam also doesn’t make direct contact with your material. Its heat is what cuts the material.
  • High intricacy: Because of the precision, control and low tolerance of laser cutting machines, they’re able to perform highly intricate and detailed work that would take a long time to do with other cutting methods and would yield less accuracy. You can also quickly adjust the computer program as needed to alter your cutting path for highly complex designs.

Laser cutters are highly accurate cutting machines that seamlessly vaporize, burn, melt or blow through the material for a precise, smooth and clean cut each time. 

Factors That Affect Laser Cutting Accuracy

Though laser cutting is considered the most accurate form of sheet metal cutting, it can’t achieve high accuracy without addressing a few requirements first. The following factors need to be taken into account when using a laser cutter:

  • Material type: The type of material you use the laser cutter on affects its precision or accuracy. In general, the smoother or thinner the material, the more accurate the cut. If you use the same settings for a different material, there will be differences in the accuracy. Use appropriate machine settings for each type of material and material composition.
  • Laser beam spot size: The smaller the spot size of the laser beam, the smaller, more precise the cut will be. Wider spot sizes result in less accurate laser cuts.
  • Laser power levelDifferent intensity levels cut through different materials in a more or less precise manner. Generally, thicker materials need a more powerful laser beam setting to evenly and accurately slice through the material.
  • Workbench accuracy: The workpiece material positioned on the workbench also has to be extremely precise for the laser beam’s cut locations to be accurate, as well. If the workbench is not flat or stabilized, the vibration will cause the process to lose accuracy.

To work with a laser cutting machine, you’ll need to get familiar with its settings and capabilities. Always take into account your material and workpiece stability, as well as the laser’s power level and spot size. 

7 Tips for Precision Laser Cutting

When working with a laser cutter, there are some tips you can follow to improve your laser cutting precision, smoothness and overall product quality. Many of these tips have to do with the settings you use on your machine, which are often based on the recommended settings for your type of work material. Other tips have to do with thinking ahead and taking extra precautions when using a laser cutter.

For an accurate cut every time, follow these tips for better precision laser cutting:

  1. Use the right settings for your material: Laser cutting machines have recommended settings for material types and compositions. Use the setting that’s recommended for your material type or thickness.
  2. Always keep your lens clean and protected: High accuracy comes from your lens, so always ensure it’s in good working order. Clean and inspect the lens before and after each use.
  3. Check the nozzle’s condition and position: The laser head needs to be adjusted properly in order to achieve a highly precise cut. Always inspect the laser head before and after use.
  4. Try a test cut first: Always create a test part before performing your whole cut process. This will reduce material waste and associated costs.
  5. Adjust the power level: Increase or decrease the laser beam’s power level until you’ve reached the most accurate edge. The recommended settings can help you adjust to the right power level.
  6. Start slow: At first, set your laser cutting speed to 10 percent below your desired speed. From there, gradually build up your laser cutting speed. 
  7. Treat the design literally: Remember that a precision laser cutter will cut every line it sees. Always double check your designs before laser cutting.

Contact APX York Sheet Metal for Laser Cutting Services

Laser cutting is a highly accurate, cost-effective and efficient process for cutting metal fabrication materials. If you’d like to improve the accuracy of your metal cutting, then consider using precision laser cutting services. APX York Sheet Metal provides leading precision metal cutting services in northern Maryland and central Pennsylvania. Our laser cutting processes are efficient and reliable, following the highest quality standards.

For more information on how to partner with us for your precision laser cutting needs, contact us online today or call us at (717) 767-2704.

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