Fiber laser cutting and plasma cutting technologies enjoy widespread implementation in the production fields depending on user needs. Both methods are decent solutions to cut metals, which otherwise cannot get accomplished with traditional cutting.
The distinctions between fiber laser cutting and CNC plasma cutting must be accounted for when picking a solution exclusively for your industry’s requirements. While there is no perfect solution to all use cases, each offers distinct features that make one more ideal over the other for different applications.
CNC Plasma vs. Fiber Laser Cutting: A Detailed Juxtaposition
Definitions and Overview
To fully comprehend the difference between these two cutting technologies, you must first begin with their fundamental definitions:
CNC Plasma Cutting
The plasma cutter is a fine-tuned and technically crafted tool that can slice bulky and durable materials with greater ease. Plasma cutting works by forcing compressed air and inert gases such as hydrogen and nitrogen via a fine nozzle at immense speeds. The combination of these gasses, tremendous speeds, and the concentrated pressure area generates plasma, an electrically conductive ionized gas.
Fiber Laser Cutting
Laser cutting is considered a safe, efficient, and dependable cutting process that uses high-powered, computer-operated lasers to perform cutting operations. The core component comprises an optical fiber equipped with elements including thulium, erbium, and dysprosium. Paired with oxygen, nitrogen, or compressed air fiber, lasers easily slice through several varieties of metals with unprecedented precision.
Also, laser cutting machines are multipurpose, and people use them for different jobs. For example, if you need engraved plaques, signs, and other items in several shapes and sizes, a fabrication company that offers a high-quality laser engraving service may help you. They have experienced technicians who use state-of-the-art laser cutting processes to ensure excellent results with a fast turnaround time and within your budget.
Principle of Operation
After going through the definitions, check out the principle of operation of each of these cutting approaches:
Principle of Plasma Cutting
The CNC plasma cutting machine is primarily a piece of thermal cutting equipment. It works on the principle of melting the metal at the incision of the workpiece using the incredibly high-temperature heat from the plasma arc. Harnessing the momentum of the high-speed plasma helps a plasma cutting machine take out the molten metal to create an incision.
Principle of Fiber Laser Cutting
After getting transmitted via the optical path system, the laser beam produced from the laser generator is concentrated with tremendous power density, irradiating the object. The workpiece absorbs the laser heat, which causes its temperature to surge exponentially. Upon hitting the boiling point, the material vaporizes and forms holes. The high-pressured gas immediately takes out the molten metal, which enables cutting.
CNC Plasma Cutting vs. Fiber Cutting: Do They Have Similarities?
Now that you know the definition and principle of plasma and fiber laser cutting, it’s time to outline their similarities before going over their differences. Generally, plasma cutting and fiber cutting are similar in the following manner:
- Both cutting methods involve using intense heat to vaporize metals into dust.
- Both cutting processes utilize high-pressure gas, such as Compressed Shop Air, Oxygen, and Nitrogen to facilitate easy material removal.
- Both cutting methods require a large work area to perform the process.
- Both cutting processes need a fume collection system to keep the vaporized material from covering every article found in your work area.
Both cutting methods use nozzles and other consumables attached to the cutting head to regulate gas flow.
CNC Plasma Cutting vs. Fiber Cutting: Which One to Choose?
Here are some crucial parameters that can help you distinguish plasma cutting and fiber cutting accurately so you can make the best choice as per your requirements:
Accuracy and Precision
Fiber laser cutting offers greater accuracy over plasma cutting since the heat-affected area and gap are small-sized. This feature helps you cut a thin and neat sample of the sample metal. If you require precision cutting of small kerf, small heating area, and small plate deformation, it is advisable to go for a laser cutting machine.
If you wish to cut a mild steel plate of thickness 2mm, use a 1000W fiber laser, as it can help deliver cutting speeds of up to 600cm/min. Plasma cutting speed offers a slower cutting speed, which is more beneficial for slicing thick metal plates.
A fiber laser cutting offers accuracies of about 0.5mm but is only usable on thin metal sheets. The plasma cutting seam is relatively bigger compared to the laser cutting seam. However, it can easily slice through a thick metal sheet while maintaining the seam at about 1-2mm.
CNC Plasma Cutting vs. Fiber Cutting: Finalizing a Choice
If you do not require enormous precision, are operating on a limited budget, and are looking to cut thick metal plates conveniently, it is advisable to go for a CNC plasma cutting machine. If you deal with metal sheets that must get cut delicately to create beautiful objects like advertisements and decorations, go for a fiber laser machine. Although it comes with a substantial initial investment, the final products have an unparalleled precision.
Here are some fundamental values to help you finalize your buying decision –
- Fiber laser cutters can cut and engrave thin metal sheets without affecting other areas.
- Metals that are reflective and cannot get cut using flame-based machines require a plasma cutter.
- Laser cutters are used for applications including trimming and engraving.
- Plasma cutters are built to slice through thicker metals effortlessly. However, they have limited applications in terms of wood, textiles, organic glass, rubber, plastics, and PVC.
- Plasma cutters are known for their cutting power while still delivering decent accuracy.
- Laser cutters are ideal for adding more intricate details to your product.
- Laser cutters can even cut through non-metals, glass, and ceramics.
- Plasma cutters are generally much cheaper. If you’re on a limited budget and are looking for a budget-friendly option, plasma cutters may be perfect for you.
If you operate an SME and are tight on budget, pick small CNC mills for your everyday operation as these machines offer decent results without being exorbitantly priced.
If you are looking to cut metals, you have two cutting options in front of you – CNC plasma cutting and fiber laser cutting. Both approaches are competent for materials that cannot get sliced using traditional cutting methods. If you wish to cut metals that are immensely reflective and thick, such as aluminum, copper, or brass, you must consider a plasma cutter. Lasers machines, despite delivering higher accuracies, struggle with slicing through reflective and thick metals.
About the Author:
This article is provided by Peter Jacobs who is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights for various blogs in CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general.