Should I Use A Plasma Or Laser Cutter?

For machine fabrication shops choosing plasma laser cutter may depend on project, budget or convenience. The history of each of these different cutting devices explains the progression of uses and creates excitement for the future of metal working and manufacturing. Adding in cutting edge (no pun intended) software technology and automation we are anxious to see where this industry will go.

Plasma cutter

Plasma or arc cutting has been around since 1950. It was developed to cut stainless steel, copper and aluminum metals. Traditional flame cutting is unsuccessful on these alloys, but the ingenuity of using electric conduction of gases through a plasma torch cutter has created an industry of professional welder tradesmen for over 60 years. Gases used by a plasma cutter are hydrogen, nitrogen, argon in addition to oxygen and air. While most metals can be cut with the plasma cutter or welder combination metals are more difficult. In the past the cost of plasma torches was very expensive, so professional welding shops or garages were the only place you could go for special repairs, fabrication or projects. Today plasma torches are more affordable and lighter to transport so arc welding has seen an upsurge in popularity. Amateur metal artist are upcycling discarded metal objects and creating beautiful art. Using these gasses one should educate their selves and make sure there is plenty of ventilation for proper handling for safety and personal health.

Laser Cutter

The history of laser cutting machinery has been progressive. In 1965 a production laser drilled holes into diamond dies. In 1967 a laser assisted oxygen jet cutter for metals was developed. In 1970 CO2 laser technology cut titanium for use in the Aerospace industry. Lasers to this day are now available in table top versions, and since lasers are more successful than plasma in cutting thin metals laser cut wall art popularity with cut out graphics is now a big part of the artesian laser industry. Software generated programing for a laser shop can help the production of wall art The costs to purchase lasers are significantly higher than plasmas and in the long run cost to operate is higher due to the CO2 needed. But lasers are faster, more accurate, and last longer than a plasma cutter. Servicing every 4-5 years or so for the CO2 resonator is an expected expense. Protective wear and education is recommended as well as proper ventilation in the area where the machine is operating.