Plasma vs. Laser Cutting: What’s the Difference?

Plasma vs. Laser Cutting: What’s the Difference?

Published on January 26th, 2023

When you need to cut metal, you have a few different options. Two of the main methods that people use are laser and plasma cutting. While both can certainly cut metal, there are some key distinctions between the processes that you should know about. Read on to discover what the difference is between plasma and laser cutting.

Laser Cutting: Defined

With a high-power laser and compressed air, oxygen, and nitrogen, you can use a laser cutter to vaporize or melt a variety of materials. The laser is generated from a tube, and a series of mirrors reflect it toward the surface. A lens in the head focuses this laser onto the surface to achieve the necessary heat to cut materials like metal, wood, and acrylic.

Plasma Cutting: Defined

Plasma cutting, on the other hand, uses a superheated ionized gas that fires out of a nozzle toward the material in question. This process was developed in the 1950s and uses extreme heat in the form of electrically ionized gas to melt the surface you’re cutting. Afterward, the compressed gas and plasma blow the melted metal away from the rest of the surface, creating a separation.

What’s Right for You?

It can be difficult to decide whether laser cutting or plasma cutting services are right for you, but there are a few things to consider. Plasma cutting is a versatile process that is generally lower cost and can cut through thicker materials. The plasma cutting process takes longer than laser cutting and uses more energy, but it is the ideal option when you want to cut thicker metals or materials with a high degree of reflection.

Laser cutting, on the other hand, has higher accuracy but can’t cut through thick materials as effectively. These factors make laser cutting ideal when you require tight tolerances and precise cuts. In addition, lasers can weld and engrave, which plasma cutters cannot do.

Now that you know what the differences are between plasma and laser cutting, you can choose which type suits your business’s needs best. When you need steel fabrication services or assistance cutting metal, don’t hesitate to reach out to California Steel—we can help!

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