Published by Ian Davis on
Mar 25, 2021 12:24:02 PM
Manufacturers in the metal fabrication sector are likely familiar with the laser cutting machine. Laser cutting is one of the fabrication processes in which a focused laser beam cuts shapes and designs into metal and various other materials. The powerful beam removes material by burning, melting, or vaporizing it.
Until recently, most laser cutting machines worked along three axes: left to right (X), in and out (Y), and the up-and-down movement of the laser cutting head (Z). However, because of technological advances in all types of machine tools, 5-axis movement is now available in laser cutters: the original X, Y, and Z, plus two additional rotary axes (A and B), allowing the laser beam to approach the part from all directions.
If you are considering having your parts machined on a laser cutter, here are things you should know about these amazing machines:
1. Advanced ‘Y’ axis cutting in fiber laser cutters
While roughly 95 percent of the metal fabrication market deal in fiber laser cutters, both C02 laser cutters and Crystal laser cutters are options. Fiber laser cutters use fiberglass to enhance a laser beam. Part of a family of “solid-state” lasers, fiber lasers have no moving parts, are energy-efficient, can cut reflective materials, and provide fast, accurate cuts on metal.
Additionally, the advancement from 3-axis to 5-axis laser cutting has resulted in major gains for the metal fabrication industry. In the predominant two-dimensional cutting, the ‘Y’ axis is rarely involved. Two-dimensional cutting is most commonly flatbed laser work, rendering the ‘Y’ axis’ impact most negligible as the metal materials are cut into sheets. The advanced movements in 5-axis laser cutting have a number of other benefits, too.
2. 5-axis laser cutting has specific advantages
While 3-axis laser cutting is already a versatile process, 5-axis laser cutting adds some significant advantages:
More cuts with one setup: Fewer setups mean increased efficiency and less chance of mistakes.
Adding holes on an angle: The tilting and rotational abilities of 5-axis makes it possible to add holes at different angles without removing and re-positioning the workpiece.
Improved metal stamp house trimming: Using a 5-axis laser cutter allows hole patterns to be cut out on a finished part, a big improvement over a stamp house. Meanwhile, trimming helps clean the edges of the metal part and relieves pressure on the material.
Forming the part before it’s cut: 5-axis laser cutting allows a part to be welded, shaped, and formed before it is cut, resulting in greater accuracy, faster production speeds, and a stronger finished part.
Cutting complex parts: Perhaps the most significant advantage to 5-axis laser cutting is its ability to machine complex parts that are both high-quality and 100% repeatable.
Consider your options before choosing a laser-cutting process
Effective laser cutting—whether from a 3-axis or 5-axis machine--typically starts with input from a skilled engineer following best practices. Here are a few points that engineers and operators should remember:
The type of material should determine the laser cutting process: It’s incumbent upon designers and engineers to match the laser cutting process to the material. For example: Wood and certain polymers can be engraved but don’t lend themselves to precise cutting, while nearly any type of laser cutting is effective on most metals.
Increased laser power doesn’t necessarily mean faster cutting: Laser cutters need time to accelerate, making high-wattage lasers effective on large parts without intricate features. On smaller, complex parts, the laser never reaches the high cutting speeds since it is constantly repositioning.
With the proper equipment and metal fabricator, 5-axis laser processing can dramatically improve the quality and end result of metal parts. If you’re looking for complex, 3D parts or secondary processing, KRYTON Metals has developed a proven process.