In the manufacturing and industrial sectors, producing components and prototypes remains an important activity. In some cases, these components could be vital parts of various machinery and equipment. In others, these components could end up playing important roles in the production and manufacturing processes that deliver the final product. It goes without saying that different establishments will follow different manufacturing processes and procedures. The specific processes followed will inevitably depend on costs, budgets, complexities, the types of products the company manufactures etc. When it comes to producing components, some establishments opt for laser cutting services. Similarly, others could adopt 3-D printing technology for producing their wares. Both methods have their merits and similarities. But, in terms of technology, both methods can be quite a study in contrast.
Experts consider laser cutting to be a subtractive process. Thus, workers engaged in laser cutting will cut the superfluous material away from the source. This process will yield a product or component in a specific shape or pattern. Laser cutting machines will be extremely fast and accurate. Their high precision levels make it easier to make intricate and precise cuts on the material. Moreover, these machines can cut through a diverse selection of materials, ranging from wood and fabrics to metals and other composite materials. Laser cutting can speed up the prototyping process. However, it inevitably comes into use for creating parts or components that require welding or finishing for creating prototypes and finished products such as industrial shelving units and storage cabinets.
On the other hand, 3-D printing will be an additive process. Before you can use a 3-D printer, you will need to create a 3-D model of the item that you want to print. Following this, the printer will set about adding layer after layer of materials such as resin and glue to create a 3-D version of the item. It can be worth mentioning that 3-D printing will never involve cutting anything, unlike what happens in the laser cutting process. Instead, in 3-D printing, the printer will build the item via several thin layers. This distinguishes it from laser cutting.
Because of their high speeds, both 3-D printing and laser cutting services can be ideal for rapid prototyping processes. However, laser cutting can be equally appropriate for manufacturing and prototyping. In contrast, 3-D printing will not be useful for producing finished goods meant for sale. Some engineers use 3-D printing to create models for identifying potential flaws and improvements prior to using the design in their manufacturing processes. Similarly, the cost of the resin used in 3-D printing can be quite expensive. Cheaper resins will only be useful for making temporary models. In contrast, laser cutting can yield parts or components that offer superior levels of durability at relatively cheaper rates.
Sheet metal manufacturing companies will use professional-grade laser cutting machines. These will undoubtedly be expensive. But, the ability of these machines to cut a diverse range of materials, to cut larger sizes of materials and to create finished products give them a clear advantage over 3-D printers. In some cases, both manufacturing techniques might give you similar outcomes. However, one of these methods will always provide better results than the other. Opt for 3-D printing services when you:
- Want to create complex designs ranging from mechanical devices to fashion accessories
- Want to create prototypes with additive manufacturing, which will save you time and money as opposed to using injection moulding processes and,
- Need to work with materials that can be ideal for using in 3-D printers
Similarly, plump for laser cutting services when you:
Need to produce bigger or larger parts
- Need to work on bigger and larger surfaces
- Need to produce a diverse selection of custom items (including products that can serve as customised storage solutions) from a wide range of materials and,
- Need to cut a lot of different and complex designs (including engravings) for personalising your products
It can be worth mentioning that you don’t need to choose between these two manufacturing techniques each time. In some cases, you could create a product with 3-D printing. Thereafter, you could fine-tune it with laser cutting to acquire a finished product.