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Comparison of Metal Fabrication Processes




Laser Cutting Extremely versatile, fast and accurateCan handle large parts to 5′ X 10′ and very small partsComplex geometry easily produced Thickness limited to 1 inch in carbon steels, can’t cut silver or glass, copper can damage the laser optics, poly-carbonates (lexan) and plastics give off hazardous gases
Turret Punch Presses Fast for rectangular, hole intensive parts Special tools often needed, overlapping slots/edges need de-burring, hole diameter minimum .03″
Milling Machining Accurate pocketing, thick materials Geometry limits and slow speed (mostly aluminum)
Plasma Cutter Good cutting, ok piercing, good for thick aluminum Heat along edges, not good for small diameter holes, UV Radiation, noisy
Flame Cutting Several inches thick possible, fast cutting Poor accuracy, poor hole piercing, noisy, fumes, dirty process
Wire EDM Excellent edges and highly accurate on small parts (around 12X12 inches) Very slow cutting speeds, starter holes must be pre-drilled and wire fed through manually
Water Jet Cutting Cuts soft materials and thick materials (stone, foam, etc. Accuracy on hard materials +/-.015 inches, messy when grit is added
Hard Tooling Great for long runs of 1,000-1,000,000 lances/forms/louvers Costly for short and medium runs
Drilling Deep holes and drilling stacks Slow, one size at a time, accuracy poor for over a diameter of .03 inches, fixturing/locating time consuming
Routing Good for softer materials like woodand plastic Poor to impossible for hard metals
Shearing Good for general purpose shearing, straight cuts for tolerances >+/- .02 inches Angles hard to accomplish, poor accuracy +/-.02 inches thin and thick parts “bow” and “twist”
Sawing Good for structural cutting Poor accuracy, slow cutting flat parts, saw blades expensive
Contour Punching Good for occasional openings Poor edge scallops > .015 inches needs removal, secondary operation
Nibbling (Pullmax) OK edges on large openings for fans and circles Can’t compare cut quality with any type cutter