Friday, February 15, 2019

CNC vs Laser Cutter: What's The Differences

by Alicia Hill (writer), , May 30, 2018

When a piece of wood/metal or any other material is cut, it is typically done with a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) device or with a laser.

While both can create a quality cut, there are scenarios in which one product may have an advantage over the other. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each device as well as the major differences between CNC vs laser cutting.

How Does a CNC Device Work?

A CNC device takes a design that is put into a computer and transfers it to the surface that is being cut using friction. One of the main advantages of using a CNC cutter is that it can be told to cut at a certain depth, and it can also make rounded or diagonal edges. This gives the individual greater control over what the finished product looks like. The process called CNC folding or forming is the process where skilled programmers apply the best CNC technology to secure the sheet at a certain point and applying enough pressure to fold the metal.

How Does a Laser Cutter Work?

Laser cutters use a computer program to guide its movements and create the cut a person desires. However, a major difference between CNC & laser cutting is that laser cutting works by burning away portions of a surface as opposed to cutting through them with friction. Ideally, lasers will be used when a straight line is needed as they are noted for their precision. The width of the cut is determined by the width of the router bit used.

When Would You Want to Use a CNC Router?

Generally speaking, a CNC router is best for when you want to create multiple products in a short period of time. This is because the router can move both sideways as well as forward and backward. In some cases, those who fancy themselves to be advanced craftsmen prefer to use a CNC machine as it generally takes more technical skill to use them.

When Would You Want to Use a Laser Cutter?

In the competition between a CNC router vs laser cutter, the laser cutter is generally easier to use, beginners can even buy a laser cutter to use at home, and it is also preferable to use when you want to burn the edges. This is because the burn marks can create the unique look and feel that a designer is going for. They are typically used on items that are meant for use around the house.

What Are Some of the Disadvantages of Using a CNC Router?

While there are many benefits to using a CNC router, there are many disadvantages to using it as well. Since the device uses friction to cut, it will be necessary to clamp down the surface that you are working on. This can create tension that can damage the surface that a person is working on.

As the router can create significant tension on a given surface, it may mean that the router doesn't make a precise cut. Therefore, a human may have to go back and finish the edges him or herself. It may also mean having to fill in areas where too much of the material was taken out. In some cases, the machine itself will need to be cleaned if it is clogged with shavings.

If you are looking to use a CNC vs laser cutter to create products that will be sold to customers, a laser cutter may be the better choice. This is because the additional time it can take to complete a project with a CNC router may result in additional labour costs that have to be passed to the customer.

What Are Some of the Disadvantages of Using a Laser Cutter?

Since a laser is generally only used to create straight lines, you will be limited in the types of products that you can make. There are also occasions in which you will not want the burned edges that a laser can create. While it is possible to deal with discolouration after a cut is made, that could cost time or money that you don't have or want to spend.

The use of computer programs and laser cutters can make it easier to create cuts and finishes that better meet your needs. Whether you are looking for a straight line or a curved edge, you can those cuts made in a timely and affordable manner. By having the ability to make quality lines and edges, you can offer the best products for your customers and increase your odds of staying in business for years to come.

About the Writer

Alicia Hill is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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