Cold-pressed steel and edge finishing

Many factors impact the quality of a laser cut, from the machine performance, the work of the operator assigned to the machine, to the choice of material.

The quality of the cut edge depends on all these parameters. However, thickness and choice of material have the largest impact.

 

Thickness of cold-pressed steel and laser cut performance

Top quality achieved by laser processing depends on the type and thickness of material. As the thickness increases, inaccuracies on the edges of the laser cut become more noticeable.

Straight lines on the very edges of the points where melted and cold zones meet lower the quality of processed surfaces. The thicker the material, the more pronounced the imperfections. The mentioned characteristics should be taken into account when acquiring metal of required characteristics.

There is a increased demand for cold-pressed steel in the market, due to its advantages in comparison to hot-pressed steel.

So, in purchasing, one should consider the fact that producing metal sheets thinner than 1 mm is advantageous only in case of cold-pressed steel sheets that are produced in thicknesses from 0.25 mm to 5 mm.

Cold-pressed steel has a high level of surface smoothness and consistent thickness, thanks to which the finishing process is minimalized, in some cases not necessary. Cold-pressed steel is also durable, and shows excellent possibilities in various types of processing, such as bending, cutting, breaking, etc.

 

Laser strength and laser technology

One way to improve the effect and decrease the imperfections resulting from cutting, is using stronger laser machines. Using stronger lasers enables the beam to cut easier, faster and with greater penetration through thicker metal sheets, thereby producing a higher quality edge, compared to lasers of lesser strength.

Lately, improvements have been achieved in the area of semi-conducting laser technologies. Fiber lasers enable considerably larger cutting speeds, as compared to CO2 lasers, while simultaneously maintaining the level of quality of the cut edge. However, the quality of the cut edge diminishes noticeably with the thickness of the sheet.

 

Material type and quality

A large range of factors can cover the type of material, primarily the type of metal itself. Various metals have different characteristics, so each reacts differently to laser cutting.

The composition of metal may have a significant impact to the quality of cut edges. Levels of carbon, manganese, silica, phosphorous and sulphur can impact the surface quality remaining after laser cutting. For example, the higher the percentage of carbon in the steel, the harder the cutting edge becomes.

Laser profiling relies more on the quality of the surface than other cutting methods. The quality of metal sheet finishing can, in a significant manner, affect the quality of the cut. Taking that into account, it is recommended to keep the steel clean, treated with an acidic medium, without traces of rust or oil.

Low quality steels present a significant problem for laser cutting. Debris inside these low-grade steels can be very reactive to the process of heat cutting, particularly when using oxygen for laser cutting.
Hot-pressed steel can also prove problematic for laser cutting because of the characteristics of their surface. The surface can meld with the metal, thus resulting in a low-quality finishing. If the surface isn’t smooth and without imperfections, the focus of the laser may shift, thus impacting the cleanness and quality of the cut.

In an effort to produce materials ideal for laser cutting, many companies offer “laser steel”. These materials have a low amount of debris, a guaranteed plane and their goal is to offer laser profiles of the highest quality.

In all other cases, it is necessary to ensure clean material without rust, oil, that is completely flat and without surface debris. Cold-pressed steels have proven to be the best performers.

If, notwithstanding all of the above, the cut edge doesn’t prove to be of adequate quality, it is recommended to choose an alternative method of cutting metal, such as cutting with a water-jet or plasma.

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