There are a variety of methods for cutting steel. Each of these methods has developed significantly over the course of the last hundred years, where there are now highly advanced technologies and processes in place to make the steel cutting process as precise as possible.
Choosing the right method for the type of steel you have can be challenging. Whilst some methods are quite fast, others may take some time. Finding quality steel plate distributors can help in your decision making process. Choosing the correct method for cutting your steel plate comes down to the thickness of the steel. Some processes are specifically designed for cutting inch thick steel, whilst other are better suited towards cutting paper thin steel plate.
Below are a set of guidelines for choosing the right method for the most suitable cut. We will also go into some detail about the the processes themselves.
What Types of Cutting Methods Are There?
There are four main types of cutting processes, provided by steel plate distributors. They are known as ‘Laser Cutting’, ‘Oxy Fuel Cutting’ ‘Plasma Cutting’ and ‘Waterjet Cutting’. Below we will break down what each of these cutting methods entail:
Laser cutting involves a lot of precision. A highly focused laser beam melts, burns or vaporises the steel plate. The finish and accuracy of this type of cutting is impressive to say the least.
Laser cutting is excellent for creating highly accurate, clean cuts. There is very little distortion or damage done to the steel using this process. It is also highly economical, as it leaves little waste.
Oxy Fuel Cutting
Oxy fuel cutting is typically used to cut through thick pieces of steel plate. This method of cutting involves high velocity cutting torches. As the name indicates, the torches use oxygen and fuel to generate significant energy and heat to cut through steep plates up 30cm thick!
This process is perfect for cutting industrial weights and counterweights. It can also be used to cut heavy industrial components for machinery, for example.
Plasma cutting machines are able to make very clean, vertical cuts into fairly thick steel. These types of plasma cutting machines are very quick and very precise.
The final type of cutting process we will mention is very different to other types. Water jet cutting involves a high pressure jet of water, mixed with abrasive substances. The combination of abrasive substances in a high powered jet stream wears down through metal.
This type of cutting process is very common in the fabrications of machine parts. It is particularly relevant for sensitive steel plate, as this process avoids excessive temperatures compared to other steels. Waterjet cutting is used everywhere from mining to aerospace.
Which Method Is Right For My Steel Plate?
Although there are a variety of methods, mentioned above, finding the right method can be tricky. Talking to steel plate distributors may give you a better idea of what method is right for you. Below we will outline the three steps you need to take when deciding what method is right for you.
1. Check The Thickness Of The Steel Plate
Depending on the the thickness of the steel plate you are using, there are more or less optimal solutions for cutting the material. Below is a list of the varying thicknesses and what steel cutting method is most relevant:
0.080” Laser cutting
0.125” Laser cutting, plasma cutting
0.250” Laser cutting, plasma cutting, waterjet cutting
2”+ Oxyfuel cutting, water jet cutting
8”+ Oxyfuel cutting
2. Does The Quality And Accuracy Of The Edge Matter?
If you have a thicker steel then plasma cutting is the most accurate cutting method. If you do not wish to use heat, for fear of warping the steel plate, then water jet cutting is most suitable.
If accuracy is not as important, oxyfuel cutting and laser cutting are still very accurate and precise cutting methods.
3. Analysing The Costs Associated With Each Cutting Method
As far as costs are concerned, water jet cutting can be the most expensive process; whilst oxyfuel cutting is the least expensive.
When cutting with plasma torches (used in laser cutting and plasma cutting), you may find that the cost of using different sized torches may add to the cost. Waterjet cutting requires changing the nozzles around many times for one cut. On the positive side, water jet cutting quotes are fairly exact to what the final cost will be.
Some materials may require multiple types of cutting methods to get the desired outcome. Many steel plate distributors can accommodate this. For example, a piece of steel plate may require both waterjet cutting in conjunction with an initial plasma cut. Using multiple methods is particularly common when creating contours in steel. Whilst using multiple methods may sound expensive, it may actually save you money.