When you need to form, shape or repair a metal piece using heat, oftentimes you’ll need to use some type of burning tool. These types of machining tools are used in welding, laser cutting, oxy-fuel cutting and plasma cutting. Curious about how these differ? Read on and find out how:
Laser Cutting: Laser cutting machines put out a very small, narrow beam of super high-energy light that melts right through metals. The most commonly used types of laser cutting machines used in machining are Co2 and Nd:YAG lasers cutters. Laser cutting works well for shaping and etching patterns into metal and it leaves a high quality finished cut. Laser cutters are extremely precise and can achieve the most exacting specifications
Oxy-fuel Cutting: Oxy-fuel cutting uses a mix of oxygen and fuel gases to cut metal. This type of cutting relies on gases such as gasoline, acetylene, hydrogen and propane to form its high-heat cutting power. This method works well for applications that require a very portable cutting method as it has a low dependence on power sources and can easily cut through the thickest of materials.
Plasma Cutting: Plasma cutters use an electrical arc to change gas into plasma. Plasma is extremely hot and when applied to metal, cuts through it at high speeds and with total ease. Plasma cutting is great for precision machining projects and usually works best on materials that conduct electricity well.
Erosion Based Precision Machining Technologies
While heat based tools rely on heat to melt and cut through materials, erosion machining tools make use of water or electricity to erode unwanted material off of the metal piece. There are two primary types of erosion machining:
Water-jet Machining: Using a high pressure jet of water, this process will cut through metal quite well. Sometimes abrasive materials are added to the water to speed up erosion. This process is commonly used on pieces with heat damage.
Electric Discharge Machining (EDM): This process uses an electric arc to form micro craters that quickly form whole cuts. Also known as spark machining, this works well for forming detailed geometric cuts on metal that conducts electricity well.
CNC Machining Methods
Computer numerical control (CNC) machining is based on using computer generated specifications transmitted to the machining tool. It uses software and programming to guide a wide variety of machining tools through the machining process. Precise and accurate results can be achieved over a large quantity of pieces or for achieving detail on a large project. Because it is an automated process some of its benefits are:
- High machining cycles: Once everything is set up CNC allows for faster production rates
- Lower costs: CNC can be very cost effective, especially for large volume runs.
- Consistency: CNC machining allows for consistent production and eliminates human error across multiple pieces.
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