Materials Used for Laser Cutting in Manufacturing

Laser cutting technology is a versatile, precise, and sought-after manufacturing technique that has applications across various materials, including metals, plastics, wood, and more. One of its key strengths is working with many materials, each offering unique possibilities. Integrated Manufacturing Solutions (IMS) is a trusted authority on laser cutting for businesses in the greater Twin Cities, Minnesota region.

Types of Materials That Can be Laser Cut in Manufacturing

acrylic p​lexiglas laser cutting material

Acrylic​

Acrylic or Plexiglas is another material commonly used in laser cutting. It offers a transparent and glossy finish, making it ideal for creating signage, decorative pieces, and intricate sculptures. Acrylic can be cut with high precision, producing sharp and polished edges.

automotive Composite Materials​​

Composite Materials​

In aerospace and automotive manufacturing, laser cutting shapes composite materials. These materials are lightweight and durable, making them essential for creating strong yet lightweight components.

Foam and Rubber​ Laser Cutting Material

Foam and Rubber​

Laser cutting creates packaging materials, foam inserts, and gaskets, ensuring that these materials fit precisely, providing protection and cushioning for delicate items, and machinery.

aluminum laser cutting material

Metal​

Laser cutting is widely used for metal materials, including stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. It is a crucial technology in the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Laser cutting ensures clean edges and fine details on a range of metals.

polycarbonate laser cutting material

Plastics

Beyond acrylic, various plastics can be laser cut, including polycarbonate, PET, and more. This versatility is crucial for industries like electronics, where custom enclosures and parts are often required.

wood laser cutting

Wood

Wood is a popular architectural material for laser cutting. Its natural beauty, versatility, and ease of workability make it a favorite for professional craftsmen. From intricate to large architectural models, laser-cut wood allows for precise detailing and engraving, enhancing the final product's aesthetics.

Laser Cutting Basics

Laser cutting involves a high-powered laser beam focused on melting, burning, or vaporizing the material to create a precise and clean cut. The type of laser and the power settings are critical in determining the cutting results. At IMS, our state-of-the-art CNC laser cutting machines use two solid-state lasers to cut through sheet metal from 24 gauge to 1” plate. Laser cut speeds can exceed 2,000 inches per minute. 

Unique Challenges and Considerations in Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is a highly flexible and precise method for cutting a wide range of materials, each with unique challenges and considerations. Understanding the material properties, laser equipment, and optimal settings is essential to achieve the desired results.

Metal Laser Cutting

A typical Laser cutting machine setup includes a laser resonator assembly, mirrors, and a laser cutting head which contains a laser focusing lens, a pressurized gas assembly, and a nozzle. When laser cutting metals, the primary consideration is their reflective nature. Metals reflect laser light, reducing cutting efficiency and damaging the cutting equipment. To overcome this challenge, certain measures are taken:

  • Laser Wavelength: Fiber lasers are particularly effective for cutting metals because their wavelength is well-absorbed by metals, making the process more efficient.
  • Assist Gas: Using assist gasses, such as oxygen or nitrogen, can help improve the cutting quality and reduce the risk of damage to the laser system. Oxygen is typically used for carbon steel, while nitrogen is suitable for stainless steel and aluminum.
  • Power Control: Precise control of the laser beam’s focus and power is essential to maintain quality cuts across various metal thicknesses.

Plastic & Acrylic Laser Cutting

Plastic materials have vastly different characteristics than metals, which requires different considerations when laser cutting. Some key factors to keep in mind include:

  • Material Composition: The composition of plastic materials can vary greatly. Some plastics, like PVC, produce harmful fumes when cut. Special ventilation or fume extraction systems may be needed to ensure operator safety.
  • Melting Temperature: Unlike metals that vaporize, plastics tend to melt during laser cutting. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully control laser power and cutting speed to prevent overheating and excessive melting.
  • Edge Quality: Achieving a clean and polished edge in plastic can be challenging. Using a lower-power laser and reducing the cutting speed can help produce better results.

Wood Laser Cutting

Wood is a popular material in laser cutting due to its versatility and aesthetic appeal. However, several considerations are unique to wood cutting:

  • Resin Content: Some woods contain natural resins that can be highly flammable when vaporized by the laser. Special care should be taken when cutting these woods, and fire safety measures must be in place.
  • Grain Direction: The orientation of the wood grain can impact the cutting quality. Cutting against the grain may result in splintering while cutting with the grain can provide a cleaner edge.
  • Material Thickness: Thicker wood materials may require multiple passes or increased laser power, leading to slower cutting speeds. Slower cutting speed affects production time and edge quality.

Other Materials

Laser cutting is used with various other materials, such as composites, foam, and rubber. Some general considerations when working with these materials include:

  • Material Thickness: The thickness of the material plays a crucial role in determining the laser parameters, such as power, speed, and focus.
  • Material Coatings: Some materials may have coatings or surface treatments that can affect laser cutting quality. These coatings may require adjustments in laser settings.

Whether working with metals, plastics, wood, or other materials, a thorough knowledge of these considerations is critical to successful laser-cutting projects. At IMS, we are a one-stop expert industrial sheet metal fabricator.  We help businesses streamline their process and get the parts they need when they need them.

IMS Laser Cutting in the Twin Cities, Minnesota Region

Integrated Manufacturing Solutions (IMS) is at the forefront of the sheet metal fabrication industry, equipped with the benefits of the latest laser cutting technology to meet the requirements of businesses in Minnesota and beyond.

  • Customized Solutions for Every Industry One of the key features that sets Integrated Manufacturing Solutions apart is its ability to provide tailor-made laser-cutting solutions for various industries. Whether you are a small startup or a large corporation, we can cater to your needs. IMS engineers and technicians work closely with clients to understand their requirements and deliver cost-effective and high-quality solutions.
  • Exceptional Customer Service: Integrated Manufacturing Solutions (IMS) prides itself on providing excellent customer service. We understand the importance of effective communication, on-time delivery, and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing. Our commitment to customer satisfaction has earned IMS a strong reputation in Minnesota and beyond.

  • Focus on Efficiency: Integrated Manufacturing Solutions’ commitment to sustainability and streamlining the supply chain means we prioritize efficiency in every project, reducing waste and costs.

  • Precision: IMS’ cutting-edge laser-cutting machinery ensures that even the most complex designs are executed accurately. 

Integrated Manufacturing Solutions (IMS) is an expert in sheet metal fabrication and industrial laser cutting manufacturing. Our skilled team of engineers provides comprehensive solutions for those needing complete metal fabrication services, including laser cuttingweldingassembly, and powder coating services.

IMS has provided metal fabrication solutions for businesses in the agriculture, consumer products, education, energy, industrial, medical, and retail industries for 18+ years.

IMS: Custom Fabrication

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We proudly serve the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. It only takes a minute! Select the service you’d like, upload your designs, and a member of our team will respond with a free quote as soon as possible. If you don’t have design mockups, or need some help figuring out a design, we’d love to help! Simply give us a call and a member of our team would be happy to answer any questions you have.

Lead Time

3 days

Parts Completed

22,000

Manufacturing Footprint

60,000 sq ft.

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