What To Consider Before Buying a Laser Cutting MachineMac-Tech Inc.
Businesses need to innovate in order to stay relevant; metal fabrication shops are no exception. Organizations continually look for ways to adopt new processes, introduce new materials, and add newer innovations, such as laser cutting machines, to their fleet, broadening the range of products offered to their customers and keeping their organization relevant. Thinking about adding a laser cutter machine to your machine shop? Here’s what to consider before buying a laser cutting machine
Laser cutting machines are capable of cutting various types of metals, including structural steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, and brass. Consider your organization’s individual material consumption when planning to purchase a laser cutter. This will help you determine whether the machine will be suitable for your shop’s needs. You should also assess the material thickness required for your jobs. Other considerations include power requirements and workbench size.
When evaluating laser cutters, you need to consider the machine’s speed, accuracy, and laser strength as it relates to your individual material and the thickness of the jobs in question. There are many types of laser cutters, but without careful consideration of your shop’s needs, you may end up with a machine that is not suited to your specific application. Mac-Tech has over 38 years of experience helping metal fabrication shops like yours select the correct machines for their applications. Our application experts can help you select the perfect fit for your machine shop.
When selecting a fiber laser cutter, pay special attention to the control panel and software and features that are available with the machine. Can you import a file from your existing CAD/CAM software? Once imported, does the software detect faults in your drawings? This alert is especially beneficial to ensure your part will not fail before you start running the job. Are you able to archive jobs for later use? This is an invaluable feature for shops in which repeatability is challenging. Is the interface user-friendly for the operator to start, track job progress, and close out jobs once completed? You should seek the answer to these questions to maximize your machine investment.
Are you a short-run production shop? Or do you need to produce many different parts within the same job? You need to carefully choose your laser cutting machine based on your organization’s project requirements. Many machines can get the job done, but be careful when selecting your machine, as capacity limitations and smaller bed sizes will inhibit your ability to produce parts at scale. Evaluate whether your metal fabrication shop will benefit from a pallet changer to expedite the loading of metal sheets. This alone can save operators many hours each week when swapping pallets, often enabling them to complete the process in as little as 10 seconds. You can also implement other automated material handling systems to keep your fiber laser cutting machine running continually with very little idle time.
One of the most significant factors you also need to consider when looking for a laser cutting machine is its safety capabilities. These laser cutting machines have so much use in metal fabrication shops, but they still need to be reined in with proper safety protocols. They need appropriate interlocks and sensors; fume extractors are one of the most essential safety features. Too much cutting can create fume buildup from the material and will need to be appropriately evacuated from the work area to prevent the risk of inhalation. Since these machines are fully enclosed, there is no risk of eye damage from laser exposure. Additionally, since the machine is doing the cutting, the risk of operator fatigue and injury is also mitigated.
As previously discussed, innovation is the key to keeping successful organizations relevant and moving in the right direction. Once you have determined your requirements, you’ll need to determine your budget. Your budget should realistically align with a machine that will fit your needs. The last thing you want is to invest in an overpriced machine that will never produce a positive ROI or a machine that is not capable of producing your jobs at all. In this case, buying based on price can become a pitfall. Realistically, your laser cutting machine should be a path to new revenue streams for your organization.
Laser cutting machines optimize the cutting process, resulting in the need for fewer operators. These operators can be reallocated to other projects while the job is running. This ultimately lowers your cost-per-part, allowing you to recognize additional revenue. An investment in a laser cutting machine effectively doubles your shop’s productivity, and an added benefit to these machines is that they can run continuously.
Service and Support
While fiber laser printers are very reliable, machines do eventually break. Some newer technology offers remote diagnostics and support, which is a benefit for minor incidents. When selecting your fiber laser machine, make sure that the reseller also services and supports the equipment. Having this full circle in the beginning will save you headaches when trying to find a reliable service organization down the road.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references from their customers regarding service and support history. A good reseller should be able to answer any post-sales calls and provide technical support after the installation. Also, inquire if the reseller offers a preventative maintenance plan. Keeping up with proper maintenance of your equipment can save you big money in repairs down the road. PMs typically include two on-site maintenance visits per year. Trained technicians have a keen eye to look for wear and faulty parts, which they will fix before the machine goes down.
This guide explored what to consider before buying a laser cutting machine. These are only some of the recommendations involved when selecting a laser cutting machine. Mac-Tech would be happy to consult with you and answer any questions you may have about laser cutters. Contact us today to begin your laser cutting machine buying journey, or to discuss any of our other offers, such as our fiber laser tube cutting machines. By the way, we also offer top-of-the-line service and support for all our customers!