How Laser Cutting Improves Safety for Your Precision Parts

February 26, 2015 | Sheet Metal Fabrication

laser cutting is highly precise and efficient at cutting sheet metal forms for baskets and other applications.When it comes to making the perfect custom basket for your parts washing, finishing, and handling needs, precision is key. If a custom basket does not meet the precise dimensions that you need, the basket itself may cause damage to a delicate part that requires heavy reworking or even replacement of said part.

Reworking or replacing a part because of a poorly-made basket is a waste in three ways:

  • A waste of time.

  • A waste of labor.

  • A waste of capital.

No business owner should have to waste production time, money, and man-hours on account of a flawed basket that didn’t meet the right tolerances. This is one reason why Marlin Steel uses advanced factory automation techniques and equipment to ensure that there is absolute consistency in your sheet metal baskets and containers.

One example of the automation technology used on the factory floor here in Baltimore is the Trumpf laser cutter. Laser cutting is a high-precision method for making holes at precise intervals in sheet metal.

In fact, did you know that laser cutting can actually help to make your parts and processes safer? Here are a few ways in which laser cutting improves safety for your parts:

Smooth-Cut Edges

When loaded baskets are being moved manually from one phase of your parts finishing process to the next, it is imperative that the handholds being used to carry the basket are safe, being free of sharps, burrs, and other defects which might injure an employee’s hands or make handling the basket difficult.

Laser cutting leaves a smooth, almost polished surface behind in cut metal. This is a major departure from the rough, jagged edges that are frequently left behind by cuts made with a physical object applying force or sawing through the metal.

Microscopic Precision Cuts

how precise is your cutting method? If you're using laser cutting, then you'll be measuring your accuracy in tenths of a millimeter.For sheet metal inserts meant to nest delicate parts, every last piece of the basket must be precisely arranged. If a cut in the sheet metal being used to nest a part isn’t just right, then the part will not sit right in the basket and it runs an increased risk of getting damaged.

With laser cutting, the margin of error is within 0.004” (0.1mm). This is made possible by the lack of mechanical force that is applied to the cutting area. With a physical tool, resistance from the metal being cut can cause the edge of a cutter to go awry, deforming the hole somewhat and leading to imperfect cuts. A laser experiences no such resistance, making, well, laser-straight cuts in stainless steel sheet metal up to 0.25” (5mm) thick.

Improved Structural Integrity

Normally, cutting holes in sheet metal requires the use of massive, heavy tools to punch a hole through the sheet metal plate with brute force. This brute force approach applies enormous mechanical forces to the sheet metal, which can lead to the sheet metal becoming weakened in the areas surrounding the cuts.

With laser cutting, the work piece that is being cut is not subjected to these mechanical forces. This spares the material from the stresses that might cause excessive weakening of the material, leading to improved structural integrity.

Stronger baskets are less prone to breaking or becoming deformed during your parts washing and finishing processes. This minimizes the risk of a part falling out of a broken basket and getting stuck in the machinery of your parts washing/finishing machines.

Other Advantages of Laser-Cutting Sheet Metal

Beyond making for safer sheet metal baskets for your precision parts, laser cutting has other benefits. These benefits include:

  • Minimal Heat Stress. With a laser cutter, the heated zone is very narrow, focused only on the area of the cut. The rest of the work piece is unaffected by heat.

  • Cuts can be Made close Together. Because there is no mechanical stress on the sheet metal slab beyond where the cut takes place, cuts can be made very close together, allowing for more parts per sheet of metal being cut. This minimizes waste material and allows for increased cost effectiveness.

  • Fast Re-fabrication on Reorders. There is less specialized tooling with a laser cutting machine than there is with a machine or process that relies on physically punching metal. Because of this, the setup time is reduced to programming the cutting pattern into the laser and loading the metal, making preparing the cutter for a specific order fast and easy.

  • Continuous Processing. A laser cutter doesn’t get a “dull” cutting edge as a physical cutting machine would over time. The laser cuts with the same precision and power from the first piece of sheet metal to the last in an order. Physical cutting devices get blunted after so many operations, requiring replacement. This is much less frequent with a laser, as there’s no physical contact between the cutter and the metal being cut.

Learn how laser cutting and other automated manufacturing processes can make for quality, engineered quick in all of your custom metal forms today!

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