What’s the Difference Between Laser Cut Aluminum and Other Methods?

What’s the Difference Between Laser Cut Aluminum and Other Methods?

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Are you looking at getting laser cut aluminum? Well getting your laser cut aluminum is a great idea, depending on the purposes. There are also many other methods that you could consider.

So what’s the difference between laser cut aluminum and other methods?

laser cut aluminum

Laser cutting aluminum – Uses a laser metal cutting machine normally controlled by cnc (computer numerically controlled) software.

Laser generates heat while cutting which will cause heat discolor and possibly deform your pattern. The upside to laser cutting is that the laser can be used for etching, so you can etch part numbers as well as where the joins will be.

Laser cutting aluminum requires the use of high-pressure nitrogen instead of oxygen. This may mean that cutting speeds can be slower than plasma cutting. It also means that operating costs are higher due to the use of a lot of nitrogen.

Laser cutting also requires a large upfront cost. You will get your moneys worth if you do need something that is highly accurate and if you need high edge quality. Laser cutting stainless steel or laser cutting metal is excellent if you need the advantages mentioned here, as they are hard to come by with other methods.

Using a laser cutter is also great for custom laser cutting. Custom metal laser cutting may require nesting on sheets. The accuracy of a laser means parts can be nested a lot closer together to save material.

Another benefit with laser cutting is that you can do laser tube cutting, so you can laser cut tubes to a high accuracy. Tube laser cutting has gotten big over the last half a decade with lasers being able to cut complex shapes and joins for both aluminum pipe and tube using multi axis machining.

plasma cut aluminum

Plasma cutting aluminum – Plasma cutting uses gas to cut your aluminum. You can get a much cleaner cut if you use an argon/hydrogen mix with aluminum.

Of course, you can use different gases and mixtures to help optimize your cutting speed and your cutting power relatively. Many manufacturers within the construction industry are successful in using plasma cutting for cutting aluminum.

In terms of tolerances, plasma can be quite good. Maybe not down to a thousandth of of an inch, but more like plus or minus 20. This is well within the tolerances in many industries where plasma cutting is used for aluminum.

Water jet cutting -Using a waterjet to cut materials means using a high pressured jet of water to cut through your metal or anything else for that matter. The whole process is compared to water erosion, but on a much accelerated level.

The biggest advantage is that there is no heat affected zone when cutting aluminum with a waterjet. This means the material’s inherent structure is preserved, ensuring 100% strength. Using a waterjet also means that there is less waste as there is no hazardous waste produced.

Another huge advantage is that there is less airborne stuff in the air such as dust particles and fumes compared to other methods and laser metal cutting.

Fun Fact: Waterjet cutting reduced the risk of cross contamination in the meat cutting industry as well.

Router cutting aluminum – With a wood router, it may be difficult to cut aluminum. You need a slower speed than what a wood router would give you, so usually around 10-14,000 rpm with smaller cuts. You may also need cooling liquid as well.

You could also check out onsrud.com for a  full line of router bits for cutting aluminum. Of course, it all depends on your router, as not all are created equal. I always recommend to ask around on online forums or talk to your manufacturer to see what can be done.

If all else fails, always test first. Use a smaller sample of the material and see how it goes and then move on or up from there.

Other Options aside from laser aluminum cutting

There are other options aside from laser cutting aluminum or doing any of the above, such has using a table saw, circular saw, skill saw, or a variable speed hand held router.

Of course, it all depends on the project at hand and how much time or money you may have to get the project done. Sometimes a simple tool or machine is all that is needed, but for greater accuracy and precision, you may want to get your aluminum cut with the proper laser cutting equipment.