Laser Cutting or Waterjet Cutting?

Manufacturers typically use one of two major cutting processes when cutting material for a project. These are known as laser cutting and water jet cutting. The choice of one or the other may be better depending on the type of material used and the desired end result. This article explains some of the basic differences between the processes and the materials and types of project that they work well with.

Laser Cutting

A laser cutter relies on gas, typically CO2, for energy. The CO2 is transmitted through a beam, guided by mirrors, and directed at the material that will be cut. With CO2 lasers, the laser source is located inside the machine, and the beam can output between 1500 and 2600 Watts, which makes safety a primary concern and can occasionally increase the price point on a laser cutting job. Materials and applications, as well as precision and safety, are important factors to think about when considering laser cutting.

Materials and Applications

Laser cutters work well with a wide variety of materials, making them an easy choice for plastic, glass, wood, and most metals. It is important to note that laser cutters cannot be used on reflective metals. It can also work on material combinations as long as that combination consists of materials with similar melting points. If the materials have different melting points, it can be rather difficult to cut. Sandwich structures with cavities cannot be cut at all using a laser, and materials with limited access prove difficult as well. 3D material cutting is also hard to manage because of the rigid beam guidance with the mirrors. 

Laser cutters do well with materials that range between 0.12 in and 0.4 in thickness and are commonly used to cut flat sheets of medium thickness steel. Typically, a laser cutter performs cutting, welding, drilling, engraving, ablation, and structuring.           

Precision and Safety

Lasers are great when you want precision. The minimum size of a laser cutting slit can reach 0.006 in, depending on the speed of the laser. It is good to note that thinner workpieces may suffer from gas pressure if the proper distance cannot be maintained, and partial burring does occur frequently. Deformation and minor structural changes can occur as a result of thermal stress, and the cut material will appear striated. 

Laser cutting produces smoke and dust, and some plastics and metals may produce toxic fumes, so being aware that those could impact time and cost is important. The overall risk involved in working with laser cutting machines is very low, however and your time and budget can benefit from the minimal amount of waste produced and subsequent ease of cleanup. 

Water Jet Cutting

Waterjet cutters use pressurized water to cut materials. There are often abrasives such as garnets and aluminum oxide added to increase cutting ability.  The overall process mimics erosion in nature, just at a much higher speed and concentration: a high-pressure pump drives the water through rigid hoses, resulting in a forceful water jet—a typical water jet can output between 4 to 7 kilowatts. Unlike a laser cutter, where the laser source is located inside the machine, the work area and pump are often separate.     

Material and Applications

Water jets can cut virtually any material including combination materials—with combination materials. However, water jets pose the threat of delamination. They can sometimes handle 3D material cutting, and exhibit limited ability with sandwich structures and cavities. Cutting materials with limited access is possible but difficult. 

Water jets usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that range in thickness from 0.4 to 2 in benefit from water jet cutting.

Precision and Safety

Waterjet cutting is not quite as precise as laser cutting, with a minimum cut size slit of .02”. Because of the high level of force used, thin, small, parts do not fare well and must be handled carefully. Although thermal stress is not an issue and burring doesn’t occur in the cut, the surface of the material will appear sand-blasted as a result of the added abrasive to the water-jet. The waterjet cutting process is quite noisy, and requires a significant amount of clean up, which could mean a bit more labor cost. There is also a large amount of waste that occurs as a result of the mixed water and abrasive. 

It is important to speak to someone with a working knowledge of both types of cutting in order to develop the best plan for your project. Here at Yarbrough Industries, we specialize in all types of machining and fabrication and would be happy to help you figure out the best solution for you.

Why You Should Hire A Local Machine Shop

When you need to hire a machine shop, it’s important to work with someone you can trust to get the job done right the first time. Working with a local company makes this much more likely. But why?

A local machine shop offers several advantages. When you are weighing your options, consider the following benefits of working with someone in your own backyard and what you should look for when doing so:

    • You can be more specific: Clear communication and detailed specifics are essential to getting the end result you desire. Being able to deliver this information in person allows you to make sure your parameters are accurately conveyed and your machine shop understands exactly what you need. You can specify the tolerances needed and work with the local company to achieve accurate measurements and optimal results. 
    • You can make roughness smooth: An important aspect of your project is determining the desired roughness of the surface. Do you want smooth components, with a very polished surface? This depends greatly on the functionality of the parts. A local professional can explain how the roughness will affect the performance of your equipment and work with you to decide what roughness is best for your project.
    • You can choose wisely: The materials you use for your manufacturing affects the final durability and performance. It also greatly affects the cost of production. Your local machine shop will review your options with you and let you personally examine various materials to determine which is best. You may even be able to look at similar products the shop has made in the past to make an informed comparison.
    • You can enjoy savings: A local shop can save you both time and money. Enjoy a smaller budget by saving on delivery costs. Complete your project faster by cutting out delivery wait times. By working with someone local, you won’t be wondering where your parts are in transit or when the project will be completed.
    • You can be involved: When you work with a local machine shop, you can be actively involved in the manufacturing process. This will provide peace of mind and a better overall experience with production.
    • You can complete the process: Once the machine shop has designed and manufactured your piece, they can also install it. It is typically easier for the same professionals who created the part to also perform the installation. Working with someone local makes this possible.
    • You can help your community: Obviously we all want to do what we can to ensure that the community we live in is becoming better every year. Working with a local business helps your own community and you know that they will provide reliable, timely service to keep their reputation spotless.

Shop local with Yarbrough Industries! You’ll enjoy the advantages of working with a local machine shop right here in the heart of the Ozarks, while receiving the best quality from some of the top professionals in the industry. Reach out to us today with any questions or to get started on your next project.

Saving Money on Metal Fabrication

In every area of life, we are all looking for ways to save money, cut costs, and squeeze out every penny when it comes to our budget. No matter if it’s a trip to the grocery store, buying a car, or looking to repurpose an abandoned warehouse for something new, we all want the best quality at the best price possible. There are situations where the best price isn’t necessarily the lowest, but knowing the difference will give you the confidence you need to make an informed decision.

This is especially true when it comes to metal fabrication. Although there may not be coupons or weekly ads to compare prices, when you begin getting the bids for a job, it becomes a heavy task to sift through the facts and figures to try to ensure you are hiring the right fabricator or welder for the job. Every job has many different factors that have to be considered, but typically the bid’s total dollar amount is one of the most things you can look at.

When you are getting ready to request bids on an upcoming project, here are a few tips that can help keep estimates low and lead times short. Keep in mind, these are suggestions and you can alter each of them to fit your specifications and needs at any particular time.

Provide shop-ready drawings. By providing your own drawings, you can eliminate the engineering process that many fabrication companies spend additional money on while forming their estimated bid.

Provide a completion date.  Every fabrication company has a different workload based on multiple factors. This means that your  desired delivery date will impact their bid price and ability to fit the project into their schedule.

Provide addresses and contacts. It is not uncommon for fabricators to do a majority of the work on-site, which can help shorten lead times considerably. By having this information up front, you allow each metal shop to determine a closer estimate of their costs based on the specifications of the job site.

Provide load specifications if possible. These include specs for tension, environmental loads, equipment limitations or restrictions, or even equipment cut sheets. This can provide them with valuable information on how they will be pricing your bid and if they will need to custom order anything.

Provide engineering drawings or basic arrangement drawings if possible. Once again, these small things allow estimators to have a clearer picture of the project in its entirety. That enables them to provide a more realistic bid total. Plus, their bid total won’t need to include costs related to this prep work.

Provide any plans and profiles available. To reiterate for the third time, the more information you can provide prior to getting the bid, the more realistic and accurate that bid will be.

If you are ever in doubt about what you should provide, always err on the side of too much. Communication is key to more precise bids and the more detail you include, the closer to a factual total you will end up with. As an interested customer, the more information you can provide up front, the better.

Another thing it is important to remember when you are considering a fabrication job is that if you need to make any major changes to these pre-stated specifications AFTER a job begins, it can extend the completion date out beyond the deadline and tack on extra costs that weren’t accounted for in the contingency figures. By being prepared in advance and knowing what you want from the start, your metal fabricator can actually get to work and complete the project as efficiently as possible.

Need to Request for Quote from Yarbrough Industries? Contact us anytime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

m