Decades ago, lasers were primarily found in the pages of science fiction. The focusing of a beam of and energy into a single point to burn through solid objects seemed like a fantastic piece of future technology.
However, laser technology is real, and manufacturers are using it to redefine many manufacturing tasks.
Here are a few examples of how industrial lasers are impacting the manufacturing industry:
Making Cuts Without Mechanical Force and Stress
One of the major limitations of traditional metal cutting technology such as a CNC punch is that the act of physically tearing metal places stress on the material surrounding the site of the cut. This creates a structural weak point in whatever metal form that is being cut. Weak points such as this make it more likely that the finished item will fail when put under stress in the future.
Lasers, on the other hand, can penetrate steel without applying mechanical force. Also, the heat generated by a manufacturing laser is very tightly focused, so heat stress to the material surrounding the site of the cut is kept to a minimum as well.
The end result is that metal cut with a laser retains more tensile strength than metal cut with physical force. This allows the final product to hold more weight without failing.
Reducing Secondary Operations
The act of physically shredding metal often leaves numerous sharps and burrs at the edges of the cut. This often results in the need to pass the cut piece of metal through extra deburring processes to remove the deformities so the part can meet tolerances or be safe to handle by hand.
The intense, focused cutting heat of a laser leaves edges that are smooth rather than jagged. The smoothness of a laser cut largely eliminates the occurrence of sharps, burrs, and other deformities, minimizing the need for secondary deburring operations. This, in turn, speeds up production, making manufacturers more efficient.
Improving Material Efficiency
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce manufacturing scrap and waste. A process that produces a lot of scrap material is a process that wasted a lot of money on excess materials.
Lasers can help manufacturers reduce their scrap production by improving the amount of cutouts that can be made in a single sheet of metal.
How do lasers achieve this?
Because laser cutting doesn’t put as much mechanical stress on the material being cut and are incredibly precise, cuts in sheet metal plates can be made incredibly close together. If you could cut the amount of space needed in between each cut by more than 50 percent, you would be able to fit more cutouts into a single sheet metal plate.
More cutouts per sheet means less wasted material per sheet. This, in turn, allows manufacturers to make more parts with less total material investment.
Increasing Freedom of Design for Cutting Shapes
Manufacturing lasers can make incredibly complicated cuts in a piece of sheet metal. From fine contours to taper cuts, the touch-free cutting operation of lasers make it easy to cut new kinds of shapes that would be difficult or impossible to make accurately with methods that rely on mechanical force.
This makes it easier for design engineers to create intricate designs for sheet metal cutouts and parts. Greater design freedom allows design engineers to adapt designs for optimal performance rather than just focusing on what’s easiest to cut or shape.
In this way, lasers can make manufacturers better equipped to improve their products.
Lasers are an Important Part of the Future of Manufacturing
Manufacturing lasers help make manufacturers faster, more efficient, and more flexible in their engineering.
As laser technology continues to improve, new innovations may help bring about further improvements that manufacturers can use to build up their productivity and business.
See how Marlin Steel helped other manufacturers save time and money using custom-engineered baskets, many of which saw cutting lasers used in their production, at the link below: