Plasma cutting vs laser cutting

Plasma Cutting vs Laser Cutting | 25 Technical Differences

If you want to know more about the differences between Plasma cutting & Laser cutting, this article is the right one. It covers the overall entire technical aspects of both laser cutting & plasma cutting.

What is Laser Cutting?

In laser cutting, a laser device generates a laser beam which further gets reflected several times by the different reflectors. The final laser beam then melts or vapourize the cutting objects as per the given design.

How laser cutting works

Normally, a laser beam has a diameter of 01. to 0.3 mm which makes contact with the material to place patterns. The power of the beam varies depending on the cutters and as well as the materials. The power of the laser beam varies from 1 to 3 KW which is enough to engrave materials such as wood, vinyl, and cardboard.

Advantages of Laser Cutting

  • Laser cutters offer more precise cuts than the other cutting methods
  • Laser cutters can extract exactly the same details as per the given drawing
  • Maintaining a laser cutter is comparably easier than others
  • The users can work maximum efficiency ratio while working with laser cutters
  • Easy to set up. Some of them don’t even require any installation procedure

Disadvantages of Laser Cutter

  • Cutting ability is limited to a certain thickness of metal
  • Expensive to buy
  • Leaves flame (such as toxic VOCs)  which is dangerous to health

What is Plasma Cutting?

The plasma cutting machine was developed even before the invention of laser cutters. The need for plasma cutters came into the brain due to the inability to cut aluminum, stainless steel, and copper with flame.

In a nutshell, a plasma cutter cuts the heavy material with a plasma torch which comes from electrically conductive gas by a highly focused channel.

How Plasma Cutting Works

Advantages of Plasma Cutting

  • Can cut heavier metals like copper, stainless steel, and aluminum
  • Easy to use
  • Cuts faster than flame
  • Precision is better than flame cutting
  • The initial cost is comparably lower
  • Gas is not flammable

The disadvantages of Plasma Cutting

  • You cannot engrave for a certain thickness with a plasma cutter
  • Precision is not as sharp as laser cutters
  • Versatility is so limited to certain materials
  • Releases toxic fumes

Plasma Cutting vs Laser Cutting (Comparison)

Let us have a look at the head-to-head comparison between plasma cutting & laser cutting.

Laser cutting vs plasma cutting

Factors Laser Cutting Plasma Cutting
Working Principle A high-power density laser beam is used to scan the material's surface, quickly heat it to thousands to tens of thousands of degrees Celsius, melt or gasify it, and then blast the melted or gasified material away from the slit using high-pressure gas. A processing method that uses oxygen or nitrogen as working gas uses high-temperature plasma arc heat to melt and evaporate the metal part incision and high-speed plasma flow to remove the molten metal to generate a slotting seam.
Cutting Process Melting Process using concentrated laser light on the material surface. Burning or melting process using high temp and pressurized ionized gas
Material Loss During Operation High Moderate
Multilayer Operation No No
Operation in Nonmetallic material surface Yes Moderate
Capable of Multi head operation No Very Limited
During operation creates hazardous vapor Yes Yes
Maximum operation limit in material thickness 25mm (MS) 150mm (SS, MS)
Machining Accuracy 0.14mm 0.4mm
Slit width 0.2 ~ 0.3mm Small
Slot Width 0.6mm (for 16mm MS) 0.5mm (for 16mm MS)
Deformation of Plate During Operation Slight Deformation being observed most of the cases. Small
Deformation Limit ±0.15mm 0.5~1mm
Operation Heat Affected Zone 0.1-0.4mm 0.5-2.0mm
Workpiece Damage during operation. No Slight damage may occur base on the operation performed.
High Precision Machining Attainable Unattainable
Operation Cutting Gap The laser beam is focused into a small spot, the cutting gap is smaller Bigger cutting gap
Cutting Speed (<10 mm) (>10 mm) Faster, SLower Slower Faster
Cutting Speed (14mm carbon steel) 6m/min 3.4m/min
Cutting Speed (30mm carbon steel) 1.2m/min 1.5m/min
Operatable materials Metal: carbon steel, low alloy steel, stainless steel, high alloy steel, aluminum, copper alloy, Nonmetal: ceramics, plastics, rubber, wood, leather, cloth, paper, film etc. High alloy steel such as carbon steel, low alloy steel and stainless steel. Other non-metallic high viscosity materials (rubber, film, etc.) *Brittle materials (ceramics, glass, etc.) cannot be operated.
Operated Section Quality Excellent. No grinding required Normal
Secondary Finishing Operation Not required Required
Flexibility of the Operation CNC programming can be processed with any cutting. patterns no need any molds. Highly Flexible. CNC programming causes the cutting and the precision is not enough. That’s why it cannot cut the smaller objects perfectly. Lacks in flexibility
Operating Cost Low High

Differentiation Summary

Let us summarize the differences between plasma cutting & laser cutting. This will help in gathering a point of understanding for both of the cutting methods.

Flexibility

Laser cutting offers higher flexibility in terms of cutting, marking & engraving. On contrary, plasma cutters are only able to cut tougher metal materials. For instance, a budget laser cutter like Xtool D1 Pro can help you to cut wood, metal & other materials. Parallelly, a plasma cutter can only help you to cut metal.

Furthermore, laser cuttings are more accurate due to nature and it saves your time and money from post-processing. On the other hand, you will always need to spend a lot of time in the post-processing grinding jobs for the cuts done by the plasma cutters.

But, laser cutters get limited up to 25mm (MS) whereas plasma cutters can handle 150mm (SS, MS).

Ability

Plasma cutters offer better cutting speed for the thicker speed compared to laser cutters. For a 30mm carbon steel, a plasma cutter will operate at 1.5m/min speed whereas the laser cutters would do around 1.2m/min. However, the result gets changed if you select thinner materials. For instance, laser cutters’ efficiency would be 6m/min for 14mm carbon steel whereas the plasma cutter would do at 3.4m/min.

In terms of cutting the gap, the laser cutter stays one step ahead of plasma cutters because The laser beam is focused into a small spot so the cutting gap is smaller.

Material Compatibility

You can cut & engrave a variety of materials with a laser cutter. They handle carbon steel, low alloy steel, stainless steel, high alloy steel, aluminum, and copper alloy as well as non-metal items such as ceramics, plastics, rubber, wood, leather, cloth, paper, film, etc.

On contrary, plasma cutter’s material compatibility is always limited to High alloy steel such as carbon steel, low alloy steel, and stainless steel. Other non-metallic high-viscosity materials (rubber, film, etc.)

Cost Efficiency

This is a subjective point that takes attention to the users’ requirements. For example, if you are a professional welder then a plasma cutter is a must for you because of the ability to cut tough & thicker metal. On contrary, a laser cutter or a laser engraver always stays on the right side for the light engineers and crafters due to the variety of work they handle each day depending on the client’s requirements.

 

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