Plasma or Laser? Finding the right profile machine for you

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It is a question we come across a lot and a common source of debate throughout our industry. Profiling and cutting machinery form a vital part of many fabricators’ metalworking arsenal but do they choose plasma or laser for their fabrication needs?

Both types of machinery are impressive and serve our industry in ways we never imagined just a few decades ago, but what are the key differences today and which type is the right one for you and your business?

A little knowledge can be a powerful thing so to help you make a more informed choice; here are some of the key differences between laser and plasma cutting machinery.

Cutting speeds

Typically a laser profile machine will offer a quicker cut than a plasma cutter across a wide range of metals, such as Mild Steel, Aluminium, Stainless Steel but those faster speeds can mean the need for more power.

Both laser and plasma machines offer excellent levels of automation through CNC control. Once programmed both types require little in terms of human intervention; plasma machines though are more reliant on a range of consumables that form the cutting head and may need more maintenance.

Material thickness

Giving thought to the dimensions of material your business works with (and importantly, the types you might be working with in the future) can be a good starting point to decide whether to invest in laser or plasma.

Both types are adept at cutting a range of material thicknesses but the quality of cut can be an important factor. As a general rule laser cutting machinery edges it for materials at the thinner end of the scale; plasma cutting wins with thicker material. However, the trade-off may be the need for a heavier duty power source and those extra kilowatts will inevitably affect the cost.

Plasma on the other hand can handle mild steel up to 200mm thick along with the potential to drill and create angled bevels. Our range of plasmas come in a variety of sizes to suit the type of work you undertake.

Initial investment

Plasma machines are cheaper than their laser cutting counterparts although if you have a lot of throughput, a laser can often justify the extra cost in terms of speed and efficiency. This is particularly beneficial if you work with materials at the thinner end of the scale and quality is paramount.

In addition to being cheaper, plasma cutting machines typically take up less space and while they can’t quite match laser for quality of cut on thinner materials, they represent unbeatable value when working with thicker materials where quality may not be as crucial.

Overall, the key factors to consider when choosing between a plasma or laser profile are:

  • What material types and thicknesses do you want to cut, today and in the future?
  • How much space do you have and is it well ventilated?
  • Is cutting quality an important part of your work?
  • What is your budget?
  • Is energy efficiency important to you?
  • How do you feel about running costs such as consumables?

To learn more about our laser and plasma ranges and for help and advice on which might be right for you and your business, get in touch today.

Published 16th November 2020