How to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Part I
Metal cutting is an important operation in most fabrication projects and laser cutting is preferred in many sectors. The precisely cut two-dimensional pieces function as machinery parts in industries from industrial baking to medicine. A common criticism of laser cutting is the cost involved during production, which can be quite high in many cases. However, many companies are unaware that their laser cutting costs, despite the production, could be significantly reduced by simple, alternate choices and communication with their laser cutting provider. So, how can the cost of laser cutting be reduced without compromising on the quality of the end deliverable? The first part of this two-part blog will focus on two techniques while looking to answer this and other questions.
Consider Sheet Metal Type and Thickness
A variety of metals can be cut, including mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and brass. The thickness of the selected metal can alter the edge quality of the cuts, but most importantly the thickness of the metal determines how quickly the beam can cut or change due to heat induction bending services. Each of these metals has an optimal cutting thickness that displays the most stable and untainted cut possible with minimal warping or variation. If a thicker or denser metal is selected, then the time spent by the laser cutting company on the design will increase. If that metal is necessary for the project, a thick metal paired with a simple design may balance out the cost. It is important to prioritize the factors that are most important to the company and the productivity of the fabrication task in many cases.
Optimize Space by Grouping and Nesting
Laser cutting carves lines on sheet metal that are often spread out, with similar design elements and edges. However, eliminating empty segments in the design file dramatically diminishes the cost, in a similar way to avoiding double cut lines. It is efficient to reduce waste and scrap metal by increasing the usable portions of the sheet of metal. Filling the whole sheet of metal with the desired product is the ideal outcome. Wasting minuscule scrapings and debris is an inevitability most of the time, but more substantial portions of scrap metal can become profitable for the organization. Grouping and nesting are two variations of this principle.
Grouping the pieces just clusters them for efficient laser work. In general, the less distance the laser head must travel to make the next cut and the less scrap metal produced will keep more money in your pocket. This method is a simple way to create more space on the sheet of metal, and it accommodates circular cuts more easily than nesting does. Rounded lines, while expensive, may be necessary for the metal fabrication work. Positioning the shapes as close to one another as possible will be cost effective. Nesting is a more specific technique to reduce waste. This method rearranges the pieces to be cut so that they share common edges and create little excess space for optimal shapes. When complementary lines are placed together, the edge of two different shapes becomes one affordable slice. Nesting is another reason why finding the straightest lines for desired products (e.g., I-beams in structural construction) should be a priority because exact lines and angles are more likely to coincide for a common edge.
Laser cutting is a very technical process and it is important to understand which cost saving approach is a best-fit for a metal fabrication engagement. Understanding the types of metal used and characteristics of laser cutting deliverables helps in devising more effective cost saving strategies. While these methods are useful in the context of laser cutting jobs, there are other cost-saving techniques in laser cutting which will be discussed.