Plasma cutting machine or laser cutting machine? The machine you should decide on depends primarly on the projects you want to perform. Both machines do well with different types of materials. The profitability of investing in either machine will therefore depend on your needs.
When does a plasma cutter perform well?
A plasma cutter provides a good quality cut, though the quality will never be as high as a laser cutting machine. If you need simple details that do not require high accuracy, the former will be perfectly sufficient for you. Please note that the arc of the plasma is never perfectly straight. Plasma bevels the cutting edge, which means that the cutting edge will reflect the shape of the arc. Sometimes minor machining is required to reduce the slag remaining on the edges of the material; there may also be minor variations in the dimensions. The plasma cutter is recommended for cutting material thicknesses from 2 mm and higher. It is not suitable for cutting holes smaller than 6 mm in diameter as the quality of the cut will not be accurate. However, when cutting thick metal sheets, plasma has a significant advantage over laser; the laser does not perform so well with cutting metal sheets much thicker than 20 mm (depending on the laser power). It is also worth mentioning that plasma cutting machines generate much lower energy consumption than laser cutting machines. Furthermore, the costs that you have to put into buying a plasma cutting machine are lower.
When does a laser cuting machine perform well?
This cutting machine, on the other hand, is suitable for details that require high precision. A laser, in other words, is a beam of focused light that cuts with very high accuracy. The margin of error is genuinely tiny, and dimensions are accurately preserved. All this makes the laser ideal for fine and detailed parts. If the workpiece contains uneven shapes and/or very fine holes, it may require a high-quality cut. In this case, the plasma cutter loses against the laser. The laser is capable of cutting holes as small as 0.1 mm in 1 mm thick sheet metal. If the operator sets the parameters correctly, it can do the complete job, i.e. the workpiece does not require further mechanical processing; the edge is even and there are no slag remnants. Additionally, the laser cutter can cut very quickly. When cutting mild steel or stainless steel with a thickness of 1-2 mm, it can reach cutting speeds of up to 25 m/min. In comparison, a plasma cutter can only reach this speed with idle travel, i.e. without burning the workpiece. A 4 kW laser can cut 22 mm thick mild steel (but with a laser cutter of this power the price would be around 100 000€).
There is no definite answer to the question of which is better – buying a plasma or laser cutting machine. It all depends on the individual task to be performed; on what kind of production prevails in a given company.
If you have any doubts or uncertainties, it is best to contact us; our employees have extensive experience and knowledge of sheet metal working machines. We will be happy to advise you on which method is better for your specific needs.
The summary of the main advantages of laser and plasma cutting machines
Plasma cutting machine advantages:
- low investment price (up to 5 times lower price in comparison to laser)
- low operating cost
- regardless of the plasma source – cutting in mild steel (with maxpro200 cutting system) can be up to 50 mm thick material
- ideal for production where the accuracy of cutting parts is not to be perfect
- ideal for small and medium-sized companies which cannot afford to buy a more expensive machine
Laser cutting machine advantages:
- perfect cut quality; it can cut very accurate pieces
- no slag on the workpiece edges
- very high cutting speed
- unlike plasma, the workpiece material does not need to be conductive
- The machines come in various configurations. Closed, open, with exchangeable table and/or with a profile rotary table.