For large scale production of custom cut sheet metal components, two options in cutting are typically used by most metal machining services. One is waterjet cutting, and the other option is laser cutting. Plasma and Oxyfuel cutting can also be used by different machine shops, and these processes are also effective.
Waterjet Custom Cutting
One of the advantages of using waterjet cutting technology is the ability to cut through even thick plate. Depending on the size of the system, this equipment is able to custom cut sheet metal and metal plate up to 12 inches in thickness, which is outside of the cutting capacity of the laser cutting equipment.
As the name implies, waterjet cutting uses high pressure, precision pinpointed jets of water and abrasive materials onto the surface of the sheet metal or plate. Tiny pieces of the metal are eroded away in just fractions of a second, allowing for very precise shapes and cutting potential.
This process requires no heat and does not create heat as is found with laser cutting of thicker types of sheet metal or metal plate. This limits any internal stress in the metal during and after the cutting process.
Laser Custom Cutting
For most types of custom cut sheet metal requirements, laser technology offers the ideal option in precision cutting and fast cutting times. Most laser cutting is limited to sheets or plates that are less than an inch and a quarter in thickness. Trying to cut through thicker types of steel plate using lasers decreases the quality and precision of the cut.
The benefit of using a laser cutting process is the immediate setup of the system. Once the CAD/CAM file is in the machine, the cutting can begin almost immediately. Automation in loading and unloading materials for cutting, further speeds up the process and decreases turnaround time for even high volume orders, with no impact on cut quality and precision.