Comparing Plasma Cutting vs. Laser Cutting

Cutting is a vital part of the metal fabrication process for projects of all sizes. When cutting metal, laser cutting and plasma cutting are the two most popular and effective methods available. While both methods are proven and trusted, they differ in many ways. By comparing plasma cutting vs. laser cutting, their differences, benefits, and potential drawbacks are easier to see. That is why the fabrication and welding experts at LWS Manufacturing & Welding have provided some information on each method to help you determine which is best for your project.

Learn about 5 benefits of CNC plasma cutting services.

What is Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting is a method that utilizes ionized gas and an electric arc to create plasma. This plasma is then used to cut through all types of metal by melting the section it is in contact with. Plasma cutting can be used to cut through steel, aluminum, brass, copper, and other conductive metals, making it a popular choice for various projects. Plasma CNC machines are often used in fabrication shops, automotive repair facilities, and industrial construction.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a method that utilizes CO2 or fibre lasers. Fibre lasers are ideal for precise cuts on any type of thin metal, while CO2 is often used for thicker materials. It should be noted that CO2 cannot be used to cut reflective surfaces (copper, aluminum, brass, etc.), but it can be used to cut wood and acrylics. In addition to cutting, lasers can be used for engraving, welding, drilling, and more. Laser CNC machines are often used in industrial manufacturing applications.

4 Factors to Consider When Comparing Each Method

The following aspects should be considered when choosing between plasma or laser cutting:

1. Cost

Laser CNC machines are typically more expensive than plasma CNC machines as they require more maintenance and utilize more expensive technology.

2. Cutting Abilities

Plasma cutters can cut through thick sheets of metal while laser machines tend to be better for thinner metals. Laser cutting is often better for precise detail work while plasma cutting is great for large simple cuts.

3. Suitable Materials

Plasma cutting can only be used on conductive materials while laser cutting can be used to cut wood, plastic, glass, and other materials. Despite this versatility, it is important to note that CO2 laser cutting is not suitable for reflective materials.

4. Speed and Efficiency

Laser cutting is faster for thin materials, but plasma offers consistently high speeds for thin or thick materials alike. Laser and plasma cutting options can utilize CNC systems to optimize accuracy and efficiency, providing faster and more consistent cuts.

When comparing plasma cutting vs. laser cutting, it is clear to see that both methods offer several advantages. While neither option is inherently better than the other, laser cutting is typically better for thin materials while plasma cutting is best for thicker materials. This means that the best choice for your project will largely depend on the materials used, your budget, and your deadlines.

To learn more about plasma cutting, laser cutting, and metal fabrication, get in touch with the team at LWS Manufacturing & Welding. We can be reached through our online contact form and will work with you to provide the perfect solution for your project.