When it comes to manipulating metal, the right CNC machine will be the best investment you can make. From rapid prototyping to full-on production runs, equipment of this kind is able to handle all this and more besides.
There are actually a number of different CNC setups built for metal cutting, so let’s look at just a handful of the most impactful and intriguing examples so you can get a sense of which might be right for you.
When it comes to cutting sheet metal, plasma cutters are an excellent option. They work in a similar manner to traditional cutting torches, but electrically charged, ionized gas is the heat source, and so nothing is technically burning.
A precise degree of control is afforded by CNC plasma cutters, and sheet metals of up to 6 inches in thickness are compatible with the higher powered machines.
The good news from a value standpoint is that there are plasma cutters for sale on the second-hand market, which means that you don’t have to splash out on a brand new machine if this isn’t within your budget.
A setup up in terms of upfront cost, laser cutters have the benefit of creating a more consistent, clean finish than plasma cutters.
This is as a result of the way that the focused laser light interacts with the surface of the metal, and this also means that the material around the area that is cut will remain largely intact. So when using a CNC laser cutter, there is less follow-up work required to complete a component.
Where laser cutters fall short is in terms of the thicknesses of the metals which can be cut. This tops out at about 3/8 of an inch of stainless steel, and around half an inch for mild steel.
.01That said, this technology can be used for more than just cutting, with laser CNC machines also able to perform etching, engraving, ablation and several other functions, all without needing to change the tooling.
Water jet cutters
If you want a form of metal cutting technology that does not involve any heat, then a CNC water jet cutter will fit the bill.
With pressures of up to 90,000 psi achievable, these machines are more than capable of blasting through sheet metals, with the precise movements of the jet controlled by CNC code according to the remit of the designer’s original intentions.
Standard water jet cutters can be enhanced further with the addition of abrasive particles. This is not just about enabling thicker materials to be cut through, but also about accelerating the process to provide better efficiency and productivity.
So there you have it; there are many types of CNC metal cutting machinery out there, each with its own perks and pitfalls to take onboard. Match your choice to the projects you have to complete and the budget you have available and you should be more than satisfied with your investment.