While they are similar and often used interchangeably in metal fabrication, plasma and laser cutting machines both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your specific needs. This article will outline some pros and cons of each machine to help you decide which is the right choice for you.
The material you cut is often a deciding factor when picking between the two.
Laser cutting is the best option for cutting metal which is thinner than 3/4″. When cutting sheets that are 2″ and thicker, you’re better off using plasma.
Lasers offer greater precision than plasma and are the best option for engraving, trimming, and cutting small holes. They cut sharper edges with small kerf, less deformation, and a smaller heat-affected zone.
The kerf width on a laser cutter is about 0.5mm, compared to roughly 1-2mm with plasma. Despite this, plasma cutters can still provide decent accuracy when used on thick metal.
Another downside to plasma cutting is that it can produce yellow discolouration on your materials as a result of oxidation from the gases it uses. Since lasers can cut with pure nitrogen, they do not have this issue.
In short, the speed of each machine will depend on the thickness of material you wish to cut. Lasers cut extremely fast, but only if you’re working with thin materials. On the other hand, plasma will be faster and more effective when it comes to anything thicker than 2″.
One of the main downsides to laser cutters is the cost. They are easily double the price in most cases, requiring a greater initial investment as well as higher maintenance and operational costs which end up being about double the price in total. However, if you will be cutting very thin metal, the production speed a laser provides may help offset the price.
If you are interested in learning more about the cost difference between laser and plasma cutters, contact us and we can provide you with pricing for both.
The decision mainly comes down to your material, required precision and budget. Laser cutters tend to be the favorable choice for accurately cutting thin metals, while plasma cutters are a more affordable option that are great for thicker material.
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