Laser Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting: What are the Key Differences?

Laser Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting: What are the Key Differences?

Since plasma and laser are cutting techniques, the phrases are occasionally used interchangeably. Despite their underlying commonalities, they differ in their application and principles. 

Both technologies were created in the mid-twentieth century and have since been refined and modified to meet the demands of current industrial procedures.

In this article, let’s discover the differences between laser cutting vs. plasma cutting.


Laser Cutting

laser cutting

Laser cutting is a technique that involves magnifying a laser light to cut materials. Since it is controlled by a CNC controller, it possesses extraordinary accuracy.

Laser cutting entails utilizing optics to concentrate a laser light. When the light gets smaller and hotter, it melts and slices through a workpiece under the control of a computer.

During the melting process, the workpiece is burnt, and waste material is blown off by an assist gas or vaporization.


Plasma Cutting

plasma cutting

Plasma cutting is a technique for cutting electrically conductive materials that use oxygen or nitrogen gas and a stream of hot plasma to melt the surface of a workpiece, no matter how harsh or resistant it is.

The restriction of plasma cutting is that it can only cut electrically conductive materials, such as aluminum, stainless steel, steel, brass, and copper.

The cutting plasma is a conductive ionized gas that becomes incredibly hot during the cutting process. Although all plasma cutting tools are the same, the temperature determines the type of tool.

All plasma-cutting instruments burn extremely hot at temperatures above 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit (22,200 degrees Celsius). When paired with CNC machining, the procedure yields components that do not require additional finishing or machining.

Unlike laser cutters, plasma cutters emit radiation, requiring employees to wear protective clothing, glasses, or goggles.


Fundamental Differences of Laser Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting

Here are some notable differences between laser cutting vs. plasma cutting that you should know before deciding which is best for your project:

  • Lasers are often more expensive to run but provide greater detail than plasma cutting. As a result, lasers are ideal for engraving details or cutting out small forms or shapes from metal, whereas plasma is excellent for more straightforward cuts.
  • Plasma cutters are capable of cutting through thick metal sheets. A plasma cutter can often cut through metal as much as 1.5 inches thick. On the other hand, lasers can cut through materials as thick as half an inch of aluminum, three-quarters of an inch of stainless steel, and one inch of steel.
  • Plasma can only cut electrically conductive materials, but lasers can cut wood, plastic, glass, and other materials. This is due to the plasma’s use of electrically conductive gas rather than a beam of optic light to generate the incisions.
  • Since laser cutting machines cannot cut highly reflective materials such as copper, plasma cutting may be the best alternative in this case. On the other hand, plasma can cut through any conductive metal surface.
  • Laser cutting has a tolerance of up to .002 inches, making it excellent for accurate cuts or elaborate notching.

The primary distinction between the two techniques is the fuel used to power the cutting process, with plasma cutting using plasma gas and laser cutting utilizing a light beam.

Also, there is considerable risk associated with plasma cutting because of the radiation it releases. Both procedures are efficient and accurate cutting methods that differ in how they finish the operation.

Interested in laser cutting? Get in touch with us today.

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