Sheet Metal Laser Cutting: Fundaments of Laser Cutting Metal

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Laser cutting is a technology that involves using a laser to cut materials. This makes it an important process in sheet metal fabrication where it goes as sheet metal laser cutting. Laser cutting is essential because of its compatibility, high precision cutting, and quality assurance.

This article will talk about laser cutting, its history, types. It will then introduce what you need to know about the connection between metal laser cutting and sheet metal fabrication. Read on.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser for cutting metal materials. It supports a lot of metal sheet, which is a huge advantage over other techniques. Below is an introduction to laser cutting about its history and how it evolved and segregated into sheet metal laser cutting. 

History of Laser Cutting

The first laser cutting machine was made by the Western Electric Engineering Research Center in 1965. The Center used the laser cutter to drill holes in diamond dies. Two years later, the first laser-assisted oxygen jet cutter was made specifically for metals. This jet cutter was an important part of the aerospace industry, especially in its utilization of sheet metal laser cutting. CO2 laser cutters were also developed, but they lacked the power to overcome metals’ thermal conductivity. Therefore, they were not ideal for metal laser cutting. Instead, they were applicable in cutting non-metals, such as textiles.

Types of Laser Cutting Machines for Metal

Presently, there are three types of laser cutters. Each one has different properties that make it ideal for different purposes. Some are better for metal sheet laser cutting because they can provide the heat required, while some are used for others that require less power. Below are the three types of laser cutting machines.

CO2 Lasers

CO2 lasers are the most common types of lasers. It is not because they are the most powerful or unique. They are less powerful, but this makes them applicable in different small yet common scenarios. They do not have much power. The power rating ranges from 25 to 100 watts with a wavelength of 10.6micrometer. However, there is an exception. Industrial CO2 lasers have a power rating of Kilowatts.

CO2 lasers are ideal for cutting wood, paper, and some plastics. While they may not be ideal, they are sometimes used as a metal sheet cutting laser.

Fiber Lasers

Fiber lasers have a long service life and are maintenance-free when compared to the other two types. They have different functionalities due to the three different pulse settings: beam, quasi, and offer pulsed. Of the fiber lasers, the most common is the MOBA lasers, which are very flexible and useful in different situations. Their functions depend on their power. However, they are still useful in different scenarios. They are ideals for glass, wood, plastic, and sheet metal laser cutting. They are good with thin materials. However, they are not ideal for materials higher than 20 mm.

Nd:YAG/Nd:YVO Lasers

Crystal laser cutting is in two forms: Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) and Nd:YVO (neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate, YVO4) crystals. Both have high cutting power, life expectancy and are very expensive.

Nd: YVO has the following characteristics:

  • Higher pump absorption and gain
  • Broader bandwidth.
  • A broader wavelength range for pumping
  • Shorter upper‐state lifetime.
  • Higher refractive index.
  • Lower thermal conductivity.

However, in continuous operation, Nd: YVO has an overall similar performance level to Nd: YAG. This is in cases with medium or high power. However, Nd: YVO’s laser life lasts for shorter periods.

They are compatible with non-metals, plastics and are applicable in laser cutting of metal sheets. They have a wavelength of 1.064 micrometers used in the medical and military.

Advantages of Laser Cutting for Rapid Prototyping

Laser cutting is a unique process, especially in rapid prototyping. There is an important need for it in rapid prototyping because of its advantages listed below.

1. Flexibility

Laser cutting operates on a unique and flexible setup. Therefore, making a separate cut does not require a new setup or laser. You can also use the same setup with different shapes and material thicknesses.

2. Precision

When you compare laser cutting to other cutting methods, laser cutting is more accurate.

It has an accuracy of +/-0.1 mm, which says much about its high precision.

3. Speed

Laser cutting has a higher speed than other traditional methods. It does not matter the complexity of the cuts. The speed of cutting up to 10mm thickness is better than all thermal cutting methods. However, this advantage depends heavily on the laser’s power.

4. Automation

Depending on the manufacturing process where the laser cutter is utilized, there is a sense of automation. A good example is in CNC machining, where automation is highly favored. Automation and other advantages can be further improved by including an experienced machine operator.

5. Quality

Laser cutters are known for the high-quality cut they give. They leave a small burr often due to the type of materials, thickness, and other factors.

6. Versatility

Laser cutting is versatile in the type of materials supported. They are ideal for plastic and sheet metal laser cutting, plastic laser materials. There are also other laser materials. The process is also unique such that you can use one machine is for different jobs. However, this depends on the types of materials.

Tips That Can Help You in Laser Cutting Operations

Laser cutting can be a little challenging. Therefore, you might need some important tips for better results or an enhanced process. Below are few tips you can follow.

1. Choose the Right Material

The right material is the most important thing to note before a laser cutting operation. Choosing a material depends on the properties you want the end product to have. For example, materials have different properties in terms of rigidity, translucency, and flexibility. At Rapid Direct, you will have access to different sheet metal laser cutting, plastics, paper, etc.

2. Spacings Are Important

Spacing is very important in laser cutting to remove the error and get the best result possible. The minimum spacing should be equal to the thickness of the material. For example, in sheet metal laser cutting, if sheet metal is 2 mm thick, the spacing between two paths be 2 mm. It is also important if you are looking at the working on different laser cut sheet metal designs.

3. Choose the Right Thickness

Thickness is an important factor that you must consider in laser cutting operations. It relates directly to the power of the laser. Therefore, the higher the thickness, the less able the laser can penetrate and cut the material. However, increasing the power of the laser at times might increase the likelihood of cutting such material.

4. Remember the Kerf

The design of the laser makes it important to note what people call Kerf. Kerf is the material that evaporates when the laser beam hits the laser cutting material. It is not only in laser cutting. It is visible in other subtractive machining processes. Kerf laser cutting occurs due to the thickness of the laser beam. It is an important thing to factor in during the designing stage.

5. Prepare Your Text

Not all laser operations require text cutting. However, if you need to incorporate text, you should space the letters of text and write them in large format. This is for a smoother operation and the best result. If the letters are close, they can overlap, leading to an illegible inscription.

RapidDirect Laser Cutting Service

Have you been getting products exposed to a low-quality cutting process? Or are you looking for a company that values quality using laser cutting? We at RapidDirect are the physical embodiment of your wish. We have successfully used sheet metal laser cutting in rapid prototyping and custom production and have seen excellent results.

Our experience allows us to work with different materials such as carbon steel, stainless steel, and Aluminum. Our laser cutting process also allows us to dissimilar thicknesses at the same time.  This makes us the right company to outsource to when you think of sheet metal fabrication.

By choosing us, you expose yourself to the best in terms of quality, price, and lead time. With our engineering experts team, you have experienced minds that can answer your questions and give you suggestions.


Laser cutting is a technology used in rapid prototyping for cutting materials. This article introduced the operation, its history, types, and other things you might know. We believe that you’ve learned one or more things about laser cutting. However, you can trust us at RapidDirect for the best laser cutting services.


Can you cut metal with a laser?

Yes, you can cut metals with a laser. However, the type of sheet metal laser material you can cut depends on factors such as thickness and laser power.

How thick of metal can a laser cut?

There is a variation in the thickness acceptable by laser cutting. Thin materials are easy to cut, unlike thick materials. However, the most important factor is the power of the laser cutter. With a high-powered laser cutter, you can cut some sheet metal laser materials easily. At Rapid Direct, you can cut carbon steel (<20mm), Stainless steel (<20mm), Aluminum (<10mm), etc.

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