For years, laser cutting was reserved for large industrial firms with the capital to pay for hefty, multifaceted machines. No small or medium-sized business would have a chance of gaining access to laser cutting services. At Thunder Laser USA, we realized that start-ups could make serious money from a variety of uses of this machine. As such, we make and sell low-cost, high-quality laser cutters so anyone can get in on the manufacturing process.
There are other methods of cutting, but a laser cutter lets you cut, engrave and etch materials with minimal mess and noise. Discover further advantages of laser cutting and find out more about how the laser cutting process works.
What Is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting, etching and engraving are digital manufacturing processes that take 2D vector images and create 3D designs. The laser cutter is made from a resonator that houses a CO2 laser within a glass chamber. When you apply power, it’s directed to the glass using a variety of mirrored lenses, which creates a heat reaction. This heat is applied to the surface of the material in the form of a laser beam, which either cuts through the whole thing, engraves the surface or leaves a mark on the substrate (also known as etching).
Why Were Laser Cutters Invented?
Production and manufacturing processes have been evolving at an unprecedented rate in recent years. As innovations continue to evolve, the people who drive the changes find ways to improve quality while making the technology more accessible. While conventional forms of cutting and engraving worked fine, there was undeniable demand for a more efficient, safer and more reliable process that could handle the rise in demand on production and manufacturing.
Laser cutting was the solution. It lets operators work faster than older methods, for longer and with more precision. This means you can create products that are more functional but smaller and without any unnecessary components. As such, this type of machine is now indispensable for a range of industries, such as medical devices, electronics, aerospace and automotive.
Even more exciting is the fact that, in recent years, laser cutting machines can do more than cut sheet metal for industry. You can use a range of different materials, such as acrylic, wood, cardboard, stainless steel and glass. There are also three different cutting methods that you can use — so the possibilities are endless if you’re a budding entrepreneur on the hunt for ideas.
What Are the Top 10 Benefits of Laser Cutting?
If laser cutting machines sound awesome already, there’s so much more to learn. They offer the best quality-to-value ratio of any cutting tool by a long shot. Here are the top 10 benefits of laser cutting:
When it comes to laser cutting benefits, one of the top ones has to be versatility. You can use a laser for a broad range of applications, not just cutting out shapes. Drilling, marking and engraving are all possible, and you don’t need to switch tools or have any prior experience with design or manufacturing to learn how to use one.
Plus, you can use a laser cutting machine for practically any type of material, from ferrous metals like copper, brass and aluminum to wood, composites, plastic and even certain fabrics. You can use a laser to cut through practically anything.
Precision is the other major advantage of using a laser compared to pretty much any other method of cutting. You can even cut complex shapes and patterns with precision using a laser, no matter how small the details are. There are design guidelines for every material you could possibly use, so make sure you check those before going ahead. By paying close attention to these, you’ll minimize waste and create exceptional products.
The high level of accuracy comes from how small and powerful the laser cutter is. The laser evaporates the material by melting it, with tolerances generally being between 0.003 inches and 0.006 inches. When it comes to high accuracy and precision, a laser cutter is undoubtedly the best choice.
3. Attention to Detail
Because the laser has several modes that complement each other, you can create uniquely detailed designs using cutting and engraving. Once you’ve cut out the desired shape, you can engrave a pattern, picture or name onto it for personalized products — or add finishing touches for perfectly professional-looking goods.
Furthermore, the high heat doesn’t lead to warping and distortion, as some people might assume. The heat-affected zone is usually quite small and doesn’t tend to cause any issues with the tolerance of the component or part. As a result, lasers are great for cutting very thin materials. The laser cuts so quickly that the material doesn’t have time to warp from excessive heat. If there is any discoloration on the heat-affected zone, it’s easy to machine away.
What many people don’t realize is that the laser never actually comes into contact with the material it cuts, engraves or etches. The heat generated by the laser is what makes the difference to the surface.
Because there’s no physical contact with the surface, there’s less chance of warping or discoloration. There’s also less chance that the machine’s mechanism will get worn or damaged over time because it never physically touches anything. This gives operators additional peace of mind, because you know you’ll spend less on waste and repairs. Plus, the process isn’t as messy as other forms of cutting and engraving.
Laser cutters are economical, even when it comes to time-sensitive or limited-run products. This is because there’s only one tool, so you don’t need to waste time changing tools or custom-building them for each project you take on board.
Creating a part or component with a laser cutting machine is simple — you just need your material, the machine and a schematic drawing that’s loaded into the machine’s computer. This means that even small-batch producers can use this type of equipment to get an excellent ROI — especially compared to other methods of production.
Another one of the major advantages of laser cutting is that it lets you work quickly, from the start to the end of the process. Everything is done digitally, so you don’t need to physically draw the design and upload it. Instead, you create a 2D image using a computer and then load that into the machine. Once you’ve programmed the laser cutter, it takes your design and creates a perfect replica.
All the person commissioning each project needs to do is approve your design and sizing. Then you can quickly get on with manufacturing their goods.
Although the idea of using a laser that evaporates material using sheer heat sounds like it might be dangerous, it’s actually much safer than most other methods. While we’d recommend wearing goggles, it’s not strictly necessary. As you can imagine, using a sharp object to cut through material is much more dangerous, as is using a water jet cutter with abrasive materials that can potentially fly into your face and eyes.
8. Power Consumption
If you’re looking to work smarter, not harder, and keep production costs as low as possible, laser cutting is the ideal option. Although the laser itself uses quite a lot of energy to burn through materials, the machine doesn’t include any other moving parts, unlike other cutting tools such as presses, which need massive amounts of energy to apply cutting force.
For example, a turret punch might consume as much as 36 kW of energy at full capacity, compared to a laser cutting machine that requires around 10 kW. This is even the case when cutting thicker materials such as aluminum.
9. Sheet Utilization
Another major benefit that stems from the accuracy and precision of laser cutting is the fact it uses a high percentage of the sheet material. When you nest cuts correctly, the laser maximizes the number of usable parts and components from pretty much any sheet of material.
This results in lower costs for your overall project, mainly because you waste less of your raw material during the cutting process. It also means your business is more sustainable because you’re not purchasing large amounts of material to throw in the trash.
Lastly, laser cutting provides freedom that you can’t get with any other type of cutting manufacturing process. When it comes to design styles, quantities and materials, the laser provides the best of all worlds. All you need is inexpensive software to design the product and material guidelines; learning how to use the machine is easy. There are pretty much zero constraints when using laser cutting technology.
How Can I Use a Laser Cutting Machine?
People who are considering buying a laser cutting machine to get into business have many different options. Some of the most popular and lucrative uses include:
When it comes to designing and making memorabilia, laser cutting presents so many different opportunities. On the one hand, you could start a company that specializes in manufacturing memorabilia. This might include adding branded designs onto objects for a range of companies or designing unique merchandise and including replicas of popular designs.
On the other hand, you could buy a laser cutting machine for your existing business. Instead of outsourcing merch, create it in house. Not only will you save on costs but you’ll also have full creative control and be in charge of lead times and supplier costs.
Creating signage is an excellent venture for an operation that revolves around a laser cutter. This is because it’s something that most homes, businesses and individuals need at some point. You can create a whole variety of signs for pretty much any application — whether it’s for offices, bathrooms, door numbers, roll-up banners, murals, window graphics or wayfinding.
Because there are so many applications for this type of manufacturing, you don’t need to tie yourself down to one niche. You can become a generalist, and the chances of ever running out of work are very slim, provided you deliver excellent quality work on time.
Make Business Cards
Business cards are a great choice of venture for a budding entrepreneur because they’re something that practically every decision-maker needs. In today’s digital marketplace, you’re not limited to your local area, either, and this particular industry is an excellent choice for someone who’s looking to tap into an international market.
You can cut them from cardboard, paper and even metal — and then etch or engrave the designs and names into the chosen material. Most people see business cards as a status symbol, so the more elaborate you make your product, the more you can charge for it.
Engrave for Institutions
One of the most versatile options for a business owner with a laser cutting machine is to carry out engravings. In particular, schools and sports clubs require trophies and awards on a regular basis — so you can build up a decent company with just a few regular clients to start with. As your reputation grows and great reviews appear online, you’ll be able to expand your business to meet increasing demands without needing to retool.
Design and Make Personalized Crockery
Another idea for a start-up using a laser cutter is designing and creating personalized crockery. Most restaurants now understand the value of having branded items, such as glassware, cutlery, napkins and uniforms. Plus, this type of product makes an excellent gift for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Start Building a Laser Cutting Business Today
If you’re ready to get your own laser cutting machine and start creating awesome designs, check out the full range at Thunder Laser USA.