Metal cutting and cutting process equipment selection

Users often face the choice of the most suitable cutting process in metal processing. At present, several metal cutting processes in the mainstream have their own characteristics in terms of cutting thickness, cutting precision, metallurgical performance and production efficiency.
This article summarizes the characteristics of various cutting processes, and hopes to give users a better understanding and make the best choice.
1. User needs analysis
(1) Equipment purchase cost Plasma, flame, laser and waterjet cutting methods are required to be equipped with different CNC numerical control, dust removal equipment and CAD/CAM software. For example, lasers require higher speed and accuracy on a thin plate than slower cutting speeds of waterjets and flames. These requirements directly lead to huge differences in equipment costs.
(2) Unit parts or length cutting costs include gas, nozzles, electrodes, electricity and water, etc. In some cases, equipment purchase costs and labor costs are also included, so be sure to pay attention to the scope when comparing. Unit parts or length costs cover cutting speed and production efficiency relative to unit time cost, and have practical reference value.
(3) Ease of use is mainly software and CNC. Reduce learning time by integrating expertise into built-in integration, thereby reducing your reliance on experience. For example, Haibao will directly integrate the full set of process parameters of the plasma into Hypertherm's own nesting software and CNC CNC, so that new users can quickly grasp.
(4) Productivity cutting speed is often the determining factor of capacity.
(5) Cutting piece accuracy There are many ways to measure the accuracy of metal parts. The tolerance of the outer profile is usually lower relative to the inner bore. So now many suppliers have introduced a higher-cutting internal hole process, such as Hypertherm's integrated bolt hole cutting process. In addition, the user usually only measures the upper surface in the measurement, but in fact, the size of the bottom surface is greatly different due to the influence of the cutting slope. It is recommended to use the positive and negative tolerance values ​​for the upper surface measurement, and then consider the cutting slope for each process.
(6) Edge quality and metallurgical properties Five processes have different effects on metal machinability, formability and weldability.
(7) Maintenance requirements Long-term use costs need to consider the maintenance and maintenance of different processes.
2. Flame cutting
Flame cutting is mostly used for cutting 6.35~150mm steel plates. When it is more than 50mm thick, the cutting speed is faster than other processes.
(1) The unit part or length cutting cost is quite high, and the cutting speed is slow. The thicker the steel plate, the more advantageous the cutting cost relative to the plasma. Usually the cost per foot is higher than the plasma, and the cost is relatively low when the thickness exceeds 50 mm.
(2) Ease of use The flame CNC cutting machine requires the operator to have the experience to achieve the fastest cutting speed and the best cutting quality.
(3) Productivity Flame cutting Since the preheating time is long and the cutting speed is slow, the production efficiency is low.
(4) The precision of the cutting part is accurate. The most suitable speed, height, gas, nozzle, the tolerance of the cutting part is about ±0.76mm, the slope is <1o.
(5) Edge quality and metallurgical properties The heat-affected zone of flame cutting is large, the section is rough and there is dross.
(6) Maintenance is relatively simple.
3. Fine plasma cutting
Fine plasma is best suited for cutting 0.45~50mm thick carbon steel and stainless steel and aluminum within 160mm thickness.
(1) The cutting cost per unit part or length is the lowest on 6.35~50mm thick carbon steel compared to other processes.
(2) Ease of use After the latest CNC and software, the plasma is easy to learn and use. Since the professional process parameters are already built into the nesting software, there is no empirical requirement for the operator.
(3) When the productivity thickness is greater than 6.35 mm, the cutting speed is faster than the laser. When the thickness is less than 50 mm, the cutting speed is faster than the flame. Plasma is the fastest and most efficient of all cutting processes.
(4) Cutting accuracy The tolerance of carbon steel cutting parts is ±(0.38~0.5)mm. For thin plates with a thickness less than (9.5 mm), the slope is between 2o and 3o. For thick plates with a thickness greater than 12.7 mm, the slope is within 1o.
(5) Edge quality and metallurgical properties The heat affected zone is small, usually <0.25 mm. The section has good weldability and is smooth and has no dross.
(6) Maintenance requirements are relatively simple.
4. Fiber laser cutting
Fiber laser is the latest laser technology. The solid-state laser generator used is more efficient than conventional CO2 lasers, and the wavelength of the fiber laser is suitable for conduction in a soft fiber, which is more flexible and easier to maintain than a CO2 laser that can only be transmitted with specular reflection. The high-energy laser melts the material being cut by focusing, and the auxiliary gas blows off the molten metal. A 3kW fiber laser is equivalent to a 4~5kW CO2 laser in terms of cutting capability and speed. Its cutting capacity is generally up to 19mm thick carbon steel.
(1) Cutting cost per unit part or length When the thickness is less than 6.35mm, the laser cutting cost is the most advantageous. As the thickness increases, the cutting speed is significantly reduced. Although the cutting quality and precision are good, the cutting cost is higher than the plasma.
(2) Ease of use is similar to the latest plasma system. With the latest CNC and software, laser cutting machines are easy to learn and use, because all settings are automatic.
(3) The productivity sheet has the highest efficiency, and when the thickness is increased to 6.35 mm, it is level with the plasma cutting.
(4) The tolerance of the fiber laser cutting part with the best cutting precision is within ±0.25mm. Better than plasma cutting, it is comparable to waterjet cutting. The slope is within 1o.
(5) Edge quality and metallurgical properties The heat affected zone is slightly smaller than the plasma.
(6) Maintenance requirements Compared with the previous CO2 laser, the maintenance difficulty of the fiber laser is greatly reduced.
5. Waterjet cutting
The two biggest advantages of waterjets compared to other cutting processes are the absence of heat affected zones and the ability to cut almost any material. In addition, the cutting accuracy of the water jet is very good. But the biggest disadvantage of the waterjet is its slow cutting speed.
(1) Cutting cost per unit part or length Since the cutting speed of the water jet is too slow, the cutting cost per unit part is the highest compared to other processes.
(2) Ease of use is similar to the latest plasma system. With the latest CNC and software, the waterjet cutting machine is easy to learn and use, and the operator's experience is very low.
(3) Productivity is very slow on carbon steel and stainless steel, and aluminum cutting will be faster.
(4) Cutting precision The accuracy of the water jet is the best among all cutting processes. The tolerance of the cutting part is about ±0.13mm. The slope is within 1o.
(5) Edge quality and metallurgical properties have no effect on the metallurgical properties of the material being cut. The section is smooth and the quality of the cut is related to the grit and the cutting speed.
(6) Maintenance requirements are relatively simple.
6. Cutting process selection points
At the FabTech show in Chicago, Hypertherm has demonstrated five different cutting processes on 12.7mm carbon steel: Air Plasma (Powermax105), Long Life Air and Oxygen Plasma (MaxPro200), Fine Plasma (HPR130XD), 3kW Fiber Laser (HyIntensityFiberlaser) and water knife (HyPrecisionWaterjet). On the surface, the quality of the five-cut cutting process samples is almost the same, but a fine observation can find that the air plasma sample has a significant slope, especially small holes. The cutting slope of the oxygen plasma is reduced, and the fine plasma hardly sees the slope. However, different cutting processes with different thicknesses are different. For example, cutting 12.7mm carbon steel fine plasma is undoubtedly the best choice. Cutting 3mm aluminum, waterjet and laser will be more efficient and more accurate.
In summary, when purchasing cutting equipment, you should first define your own needs and practical applications. Considering the various process characteristics described in this paper, we believe that we can choose the most suitable metal cutting process and equipment.
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