Today, with the development of high-definition plasma cutting along with the advances in plasma torch and consumable technology, there is a huge improvement plasma cutting capabilities that have been seen in the last couple of decades. The emergence of a new class of plasma cutting has enhanced the ability of plasma to handle high precision cutting applications, that provide excellent cut quality.
Laser cutting delivers excellent hole and fine feature cutting due to the narrow kerf, producing around 0.2-0.4 mm (0.008-inch to 0.015-inch) on mild steel by making use of oxygen and a narrower kerf when cutting mild steel of up to 25 mm (1 inch) thick while using nitrogen. You can also get excellent angular cuts by making use of fibre laser that can cut up to the range of 0.2 mm (0.007 inches).
Compared to the fibre laser cutting, the high definition plasma cutting system delivers a surface finish that is much smoother in materials which are of thicker ranges and it also delivers consistent edge-quality across the entire life of the consumable set.
Plasma vs Laser Cutting
The kerf produced in plasma cutting ranges between 1.5 mm on extremely thin metal to around 5 mm (0.225 inches) on a material of 25 mm (0.05 inches) thickness at around 300 amps. Laser cutting is the best option if you’re looking to produce very small holes or for very fine feature cutting. However, if you’re looking for high-quality perimeter cuts with tolerances in the range of around 0.020 inches, and if the cutting material is thicker than 10 mm (3/8 inches), the faster cutting speeds of plasma make it a better option.
Plasma cutting is also a more favoured form of cutting for bevel cutting and today, it has become more cost-effective to do the bevel cutting on the cutting machine, thereby eliminating the secondary finishing processes. And, since the cutting bevel angles increase the thickness of the metal plate being cut, plasma cutting can be more beneficial.
You must also consider the cost of initial investment that is associated with a high definition plasma cutting system compared to a laser cutting system. A plasma system that is mounted on a high-quality cutting machine which is capable of cutting material of around 25 mm (1 inch) thickness and at a speed greater than 1900 mm per minute costs much lesser; in fact, 2-4 times lesser compared to a laser cutting system.
Plasma cutting is a better process, especially if you are cutting dirty steel i.e. plates with imperfections, oxidation, etc. and this does not really affect the plasma arc. However, this is not possible with fibre laser. And finally, plasma cutting requires safety devices to protect the operator from noise and glare, whereas, laser cutting systems require a safety enclosure to be constructed around the entire cutting system to protect people from the hazardous fibre laser beam.
In short, both plasma cutting and laser cutting have their benefits and drawbacks. And, you must decide on the type of cutting system that is right for your business depending on your business’ requirements.