Did you know that many of today’s “stainless steel” products aren’t actually stainless steel at all? Rather they are a surface painted to resemble stainless steel. This is a common practice in the home appliance, industrial refrigeration, and similar industries to help make products more affordable.
These surfaces carry names such as monochromatic stainless steel, black stainless steel, clean steel, and fingerprint resistant stainless steel. Fabricators hoping to do business in this realm should certainly become familiar with laser cutting painted material.
Painted material comes in a thickness generally ranging from 18-24 gauge. And, while such materials may sometimes come with a PVC film, the coating is often insufficiently tacky to adhere to the painted surface. This will likely create instability during laser processing resulting in bubbling and/or melting.
Moreover, film coated painted material is generally a lesser grade and not conducive to pre-melting. Consequently, it is recommended to have your steel supplier provide laser-quality film.
You may also elect to remove the film before cutting. If you go this route, however, be sure to take extra care not to damage the painted surface.
Don’t Burn it!
Generally, fiber lasers are the best choice when processing painted materials. However, cutting such material at a rate that is too fast or too hot will likely create a burn mark on the surface of the material near the edge.
Some lighter colors are more susceptible to showing burn marks than others and typically very light colors, especially bright white are not candidates for fiber lasers. It is also possible that some colors may not cut at all due to how the wavelength of a fiber optic laser reacts to those colors.
Get the Information
Take the time to experiment and dial-in the optimum cutting condition before beginning a long run of laser cut parts. Also, it’s a good idea to communicate with your laser manufacturer or dealer if you have any questions of how-to best process standard, exotic, coated or other material. Chances are they can offer the information or advice needed to make your laser cutting a success.
Speaking of getting information… SecturaSOFT can help keep your cutting equipment operating at full capacity. Talk to us to learn how our quoting solution is helping fabricators of all types and sizes generate winning bids faster and at the highest margins!