CNC Plasma Cutting and Engraving:
What is plasma?
To Properly explain how a plasma cutter works, we must begin by answering the basic question “What is plasma? In its simplest terms, plasma is the fourth state of matter. We commonly think of matter having three states: a solid, a liquid, and a gas. Matter changes from one state to the other through the introduction of energy, such as heat. For example, water will change from a solid (ice) to its liquid state when a certain amount of heat is applied. If the heat levels are increased, it will change again from a liquid to a gas (steam). Now, if the heat levels increase again, the gases that make up the steam will become ionized and electrically conductive, becoming plasma. A plasma cutter will use this electrically conductive gas to transfer energy from a power supply to any conductive material, resulting in a cleaner, faster cutting process than with oxyfuel.
The plasma arc formation begins when a gas such as oxygen, nitrogen, argon, or even shop air is forced through a small nozzle orifice inside the torch. An electric arc generated from the external power supply is then introduced to this high pressured gas flow, resulting in what is commonly referred to as a “plasma jet”. The plasma jet immediately reaches temperatures up to 40,000° F, quickly piercing through the work piece and blowing away the molten material.
Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Typical materials cut with a plasma torch include steel, Stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper, although other conductive metals may be cut as well.
Plasma cutting is often used in fabrication shops, automotive repair and restoration, industrial construction, and salvage scrapping operations and General signage applications.
Due to the high speed and precision cuts combined with low cost, plasma cutting sees widespread use from large-scale industrial CNC applications down to small hobbyist shops.
Our Machine Bed / Cut size is 1200mm x 120000mm – Any items larger than that we will outsource this for you……
CNC Laser Cutting:
Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, and is typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, but is also starting to be used by schools, small businesses, and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The laser optics and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. A typical commercial laser for cutting materials involved a motion control system to follow a CNC or G-code of the pattern to be cut onto the material. The focused laser beam is directed at the material, which then either melts, burns, vaporizes away, or is blown away by a jet of gas, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish. Industrial laser cutters are used to cut flat-sheet material as well as structural and piping materials.
Our Machine Bed / Cut size is 1200mm x 900mm – Any items larger than that we will out source this for you……
Safe Cutting Materials:
Many woods Avoid oily/resinous woods. Be very careful about cutting oily woods, or very resinous woods as they also may catch fire.
Plywood/Composite woods . These contain glue, and may not laser cut as well as solid wood.
MDF/Engineered woods These are okay to use but may experience a higher amount of charring when cut.
Paper, card stock Cuts very well on the laser cutter, and also very quickly.
Cardboard, carton Cuts well but may catch fire. Watch for fire.
Cork Cuts nicely, but the quality of the cut depends on the thickness and quality of the cork. Engineered cork has a lot of glue in it, and may not cut as well.
Avoid thicker cork.
Acrylic/Lucite/Plexiglas/ PMMA . Cuts extremely well leaving a beautifully polished edge.
Thin Polycarbonate Sheeting (<1mm) Very thin polycarbonate can be cut, but tends to discolor badly. Extremely thin sheets (0.5mm and less) may cut with yellowed/discolored edges. Polycarbonate absorbs IR strongly, and is a poor material to use in the laser cutter.
Watch for smoking/burning
Delrin (POM) Delrin comes in a number of shore strengths (hardness) and the harder Delrin tends to work better. Great for gears!
Kapton tape (Polyimide) Works well, in thin sheets and strips like tape.
Mylar Works well if it’s thin. Thick mylar has a tendency to warp, bubble, and curl
Gold coated mylar will not work.
Solid Styrene Smokes a lot when cut, but can be cut. Keep it thin.
Depron foam Used a lot for hobby, RC aircraft, architectural models, and toys. 1/4″ cuts nicely, with a smooth edge.
Must be constantly monitored.
Gator foam Foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard paper shell.
Not a fantastic thing to cut, but it can be cut if watched.
Cloth/felt/hemp/cotton They all cut well. Our lasers can be used in lace-making.
Not plastic coated or impregnated cloth!
Leather/Suede Leather is very hard to cut, but can be if it’s thinner than a belt (call it 1/8″)
Real leather only! Not ‘pleather’ or other imitations .. they are made of PVC.
Magnetic Sheet Cuts beautifully
Fine for cutting. Beware chlorine-containing rubber!
Carbon fiber mats/weave, that has not had epoxy applied Can be cut, very slowly. You must not cut carbon fiber that has been coated!!
Coroplast (‘corrugated plastic’)
Difficult because of the vertical strips. Three passes at 80% power, 7% speed, and it will be slightly connected still at the bottom from the vertical strips.
All the above “cuttable” materials can be engraved, In addition, you can engrave:
Glass Green seems to work best…looks sandblasted.
Flat glass, bottles glasses and Ceramic tiles
Anodized aluminum Vaporizes the anodization away.
Painted/coated metals Vaporizes the paint away.
Stone, Marble, Granite, Soapstone, Onyx. Gets a white “textured” look when etched.
NEVER CUT THESE MATERIALS:
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather Emits chlorine gas when cut!
Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate/Lexan, Cuts very poorly, discolors, catches fire
Polycarbonate is often found as flat, sheet material. The window of the laser cutter is made of Polycarbonate because polycarbonate strongly absorbs infrared radiation! This is the frequency of light the laser cutter uses to cut materials, so it is very ineffective at cutting polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a poor choice for laser cutting. It creates long stringy clouds of soot that float up, ruin the optics and mess up the machine.
ABS Melts / Cyanide ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt rather than vaporize, and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt). Cutting ABS plastic emits hydrogen cyanide, which is unsafe at any concentration.
HDPE/milk bottle plastic Catches fire and melts , It gets gooey. It catches fire. Don’t use it.
PolyStyrene Foam Catches fire It catches fire quickly, burns rapidly, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
PolyPropylene Foam Catches fire Like PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
Epoxy burn / smoke Epoxy is an aliphatic resin, strongly cross-linked carbon chains. A CO2 laser can’t cut it, and the resulting burned mess creates toxic fumes ( like cyanide! ). Items coated in Epoxy, or cast Epoxy resins must not be used in the laser cutter.
Fiberglass Emits fumes It’s a mix of two materials that cant’ be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
Coated Carbon Fiber Emits noxious fumes A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying – but not when coated.
Any foodstuff ( such as meat, seaweed ‘nori’ sheets, cookie dough, bread, tortillas!
CNC Routing Service – Now Also available in house on various materials in 2D or 2.5D
– Our bed / cutting size is 1200mmx600mm.
3D Printing – Now Also available in house – Our Bed / Printing size is 200mmx280mm.
Regards to our Laser Cutting / Engraving / Plasma Cutting / Routing / 3D Printing Services, Please get in contact with us for a Quote.
We able to also supply various materials – Send us your design or let us do a design for you.
Please note redrawing or creating a design for you may reflect extra charges depending on time spent creating each unique custom design your heart desires!