Answering Common Fabrication Questions We’ve Heard Lately

Q: What type of assist gas is best for my application?

A: The type of assist gas is determined by the material type and what finish you are looking for.

Oxygen is generally used on mild steel 1/8” and above or to process thin aluminum at high speed with a fiber laser. Oxygen can be used to cut stainless steel but will result in poor edge quality. Overall, Oxygen will leave an oxidized edge that will need to be removed before painting or welding can occur.

Air can be used to cut all material types at high speed but is limited to thinner materials. Air will leave a gold-colored or brown edge. This edge can, in most cases, be painted or welded.

Finally, nitrogen can be used on all material types and thicknesses. It will leave the best edge quality but is the most expensive to use because of the high flow rate. For mild steel, nitrogen is used effectively up to ¼”, but can be used up to ½” depending on the needs of the customer and the output power of the laser.

Q: How does automation increase productivity?

A: The main benefit of automating a laser is you do not need to rely on an operator to load, unload, and schedule the machine. This saves a ton of time when you factor in varying speeds of work, breaks and sick days for workers. Automation systems keep a machine running with minimal interruption and can be remotely scheduled and monitored.

Q: Can I run my laser lights out?

A: This will depend greatly on what material type and thickness are being processed. Never run high-risk materials that are known for causing cutting issues. Some examples of those include thick-plate cutting, nesting to closely without head lifts and not utilizing tabbing or micro-joints.

In order to be successful in lights out situations, always run known or trusted nests and materials. Material setups need to be planned accordingly. Pick jobs that use the same material type, nozzle, and gas to reduce changes in the process that could lead to failure. With lights out, remote monitoring is a useful tool when someone cannot be present to watch the system run.