You didn’t invest in that laser not to use it; but there are instances when waterjet or plasma is a better option. Lasers can be limited by a number of factors including material thickness and quality, alloy type, heat conductivity, metallurgy, and even part geometry. The complexity of some parts, such as those with intricate detail, acute angles and tight radii, makes them better suited for waterjet cutting as waterjets simply do not emit the high temperatures associated with lasers. Conversely, plasma or oxy-fuel is a better choice for thick parts where edge quality and taper are less important.
Today many OEMs are introducing higher power lasers to help address thick cutting issues. For example, Mitsubishi now offers their fiber lasers in 4, 6 and 8,000 watt iterations with patented ZOOM head cutting technology. During the due diligence phase of a new fiber laser purchase, devoting an equal amount of time to researching and understanding the differences and features of the cutting head when considering resonator wattage is of paramount importance.
Choosing a machine that offers a cutting head that is capable of manipulating the BPP (beam product parameter), known as the Gaussian Mode pattern on CO2 lasers, can simplify and improve your results in thick plate cutting of mild steel. This ZOOM head cutting technology is also capable of manipulating the focal lengths to 3.75”, 5.0”, 7.5” and 10.0” as well as manipulating spot size with no operator intervention and without changing optics. All of these variables work together to create the optimal cutting tool for stainless steel, aluminum and carbon steel; thick and thin.