January 17, 2022

CNC vs laser cutter

CNC machine vs laser cutter

The CNC machine starts with a block material called a blank that cuts off material to make a finished part. The cutter and spinning tools shape the piece, and it works with accuracy on wood, metals, and plastics. The CNC machine focuses on ABS, Nylon, Polycarbonate, Acrylic, Polypropylene, POM, and Peek plastic.

CNC machines use aluminum, which is recyclable and effective. It uses steel, magnesium, alloy, and brass. CNC machining requires your hand as it runs the material. It requires a skilled operator to choose the perfect tool, the rotation speeds of the tools, the cutting path, and reposition the material you are working on.

Your contribution does not end there and offers post-processing skills that take more time. You can hardly multitask when you are using the CNC machine. CNC machining is efficient on large sizes of material. Like the CNC Lathe are used for mass production. It has a way of tolerating dimensions.

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Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to vaporize materials, for a cut edge. It is for industrial manufacturing applications. It is used by schools, small businesses, architecture, and hobbyists. The Laser-cutting CNC machines cut through hard materials using a laser to perform this task instead of a plasma torch.

The laser cutter has high accuracy but is not as effective as plasma torches. Laser-cutting CNC machines use any of the three types of lasers, CO2, neodymium (Nd), or yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd: YAG).

What types of CNC machine is similar to a laser cutter

CNC routers are like laser cutters. It focuses on cutting or engraving materials with speed and precision. Like laser cutters, they cut materials such as plastic, foam, wood, composites, acrylic, steel, aluminum, and other metal plates.

Features of a laser cutter

Flexibility

Laser cutting does not require an exchange of tools for a specific cut. Use the same setup for cutting different shapes within the same material thickness. That way, you make intricate cuts without facing challenges.

Precision

Accuracy is what you get from the laser cut. It is more accurate than other thermal cutting methods. It comes with an accuracy of +/-0.1 mm, allowing you to achieve high precision without any after-treatment. Due to the high standard results you get, no added tolerances.

Repeatability

+/- 0.05 mm allows you to make identical parts. They are perfect replicas that you get with little effort.

Speed

Laser cutting more quickly than traditional mechanical cutting methods. That does not change even when you are working on complex cuts. Other thermal cutting methods like plasma or flame cutting, laser beats them in speed up to a certain thickness around 10 mm. That is similar to the power of the laser cutter.

Automation

The laser cutting machinery is automated. That makes the operation easier since less effort is from the user. You need experience in the operating system for high-quality products. That is how you maintain lower costs compared to other cutting methods. Some machines have feeding systems and follow-up conveyors. Such setups make for a higher-priced laser cutting machine.

Contactless Cutting

When laser cutting, only the beam comes into contact with the material. There is no mechanical friction that could wear tools.

Versatility

Laser cutting cuts different materials without compromising quality. Among them are metals, acrylic, MDF, wood, and paper. One machine is configured to perform jobs. The ability to cut some of these materials depends on the power of your CNC machine. Many laser cutters are not for cutting only but also for laser marking. Marking has a lot of applications when producing everyday products.

Features of a CNC machine

G Code Program

Choose an easier way to machine your part. Avoid doing it in one operation since it is easier in two CNC operations. That helps you achieve accuracy. You still have to figure out how to hold the part of each setup. Decide on each setup you have to write your geode programs. These should be different programs since it evolves around tool changing.

Use many programs for each setup. You are allowed to combine all the programs into one to reduce confusion. That way, they remain short and simple. When familiar with the CNC tool you are using, separating the CNC programs will be ideal.

When you switch to a different tool, create another program for that tool. For a standard g code program, look for a simple text editor and the basics of G Code programming and CNC terminology. If you have been to the CNC program training center, you can do this.

Keep a separate folder on your laptop with programs to avoid rewriting each program when using the machinery. That way, you only pick a CNC program for running and editing numbers. The result is a better understanding of the writing skills of g code programming. Using  CAD/CAM software is quick and simple.

Cad/Cam Software

You need the software if you do not intend to write your Gcode. Using the software saves time and effort. CAD is software for computer-aided design. Use if to draw your part. When done, save it as a digital file to be read by the CAM software.

Cam is an abbreviation for computer-aided manufacturing. It produces cutter paths from the profile you imported from your cad software. Use it for a post-processor in your cam software to produce a Gcode program from those paths. Using cad/cam software is more convenient. It does both processes in the same program.

Control panel

It is amongst the CNC machine parts used to set the program for activities done on the workpiece. It allows you to have control over the machine. That is where you change settings and control your speed. The operation code is fed into the CNC machine via the control panel automatically.

Pedal

The CNC pedal known as the foot-switch is where the operator opens or closes the chuck for gripping. The material needs a grip, otherwise, it will slip away. Operate it the same way you do a tailstock.

Chuck

The chuck is onto the main spindle. It makes sure that your workpiece is in the correct position.

Tailstock

It brings extra grip to the workpiece. The chances are low that it will move from the position. The machine runs and has the tailstock quill that is a setting needed by the workpiece between the centers.

Headstock

That is the heart of the machine that fixes the material. It comes with a motor that drives the main spindle.

Similarities between CNC and laser cutting

  • They both follow a programmed path.
  • Versatility.
  • They are both cutting tools.

Difference between CNC router and laser cutter

  • CNC cuts through direct physical contact, whereas laser uses a laser to cut through plywood.
  • CNC cutting is achieved through friction, while laser cutting is through heat.
  • CNC is more affordable than a laser cutter.
  • Cutting with a laser gives access to a level of precision and intricacy more control than CNC.
  • Laser cutters have more fancy features than the old fashion CNC.
  • Laser cutters have a lot of extra bells and whistles than CNC.

CNC VS laser cutter for woodwork

Laser cutting gives you clean, vertical lines but also discoloration. It is limited to thin materials. CNC cutting allows you to work through thick materials and to cut to specific depths to make truly three-dimensional objects. Lasers use heat to cut through the wood, while CNC routers use a spinning bit to remove material.

CNC vs laser cutter for metal

A CNC system guides the laser metal cutting machine, whereas a laser relies on heat to create the desired shape of the product. Traditional CNC cutting carves out the design. Laser cutting depends on a high-energy light beam that burns through the metal material.

When to use CNC instead of the laser cutter

  • When running simple cuts.
  • When working on a tight budget.

When to use laser cutter instead of CNC

  • When you are focusing on creative designs.
  • For precise cuts.

Price Comparison

CNC machines are more affordable than laser cutters. That gives you many fancy features on the laser cutter. It also consumes more power during operation.

David D. Hughes

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