At Cadet Steel, we’re presented with a wide variety of projects from all types of industries. From small clips to hold electronic components to automotive parts and much more.
Before getting started, we asses and determine the most efficient and cost-effective ways to deliver exactly what you need. And while there’s more than one method of steel cutting for metal fabrication, we always hone in on the approach that provides the greatest accuracy and least amount of time.
Today, we discuss four different steel cutting techniques, including their pros and cons. With this insight, you can better understand our process and collaborate with us to fabricate nearly any product or part.
Oxy-fuel cutting uses a combination of fuel gasses and oxygen to cut different thicknesses of metal. A variety of different fuels may be used, but the most common is acetylene.
This type of steel cutting for metal fabrication uses a torch to heat a metal to its kindling temperature. At this stage, a rivulet of oxygen is directed onto the metal, burning it into a metal oxide. The new metal oxide flows out and away from the intact material, and leftover slag is wiped or tapped away.
This is one of the most traditional welding processes, but recently, in almost all industries, it is taking a break due to various arc welding methods offering more consistent mechanical weld properties and faster application. It is still often used for metal-based artwork and smaller home-based businesses.
An oxy-fuel torch can cut through a very thick plate, depending on the amount of oxygen utilized, and it can easily cut through 36, or even 48 inches of steel using an oxy-fuel torch. A 12-inch thick plate and thinner is generally the norm for this style of cutting, and the use of multiple torches makes it versatile.
Plasma cutting is another steel cutting for metal fabrication process that uses a high-velocity jet of ionized gas delivered from a constricting orifice.
The high-velocity ionized gas (plasma) emits electricity from the torch of the plasma cutter to the material you are working on. The plasma then heats the workpiece, melts it, and the high-velocity stream of ionized gas mechanically blows the molten metal away, severing the material off.
Plasma cutting can be limiting because it requires power or compressed air. It can be more expensive than the other options and will not cut as thick or fast. In the past decade technology involving plasma torching has made manufacturers engineer new models with smaller nozzles and a thinner plasma arc, allowing near-laser precision on plasma cut edges.
Many manufacturers have combined precision CNC control with these torches to allow fabricators to more quickly and efficiently produce parts that require little or no finishing.
Laser cutting is a method of steel cutting for metal fabrication using a CAD file to guide it along.
There are three main varieties of lasers employed in the industry: CO2 lasers, Nd lasers and Nd-YAG lasers. These involve firing a laser. It cuts by melting, burning or vaporizing the chosen material. You can achieve a very fine level of cutting detail on many types of materials.
As far as limitations, CO2 lasers, in particular, cannot cut metals and other hard materials very well and are thus used mostly for engraving. Lasers cut up to a 1.25-inch mild steel grade thickness. The process can be rather slow going, but very reliable for producing many items at one time.
WATER JET CUTTING
A water jet cutting tool is capable of slicing into steel as well as other metals and materials using a jet of water or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance at high velocity and pressure.
The water erosion you see in nature is the same basis for how the process works but at an accelerated and concentrated speed.
Water jet steel cutting for metal fabrication can be used for machinery parts and other devices. Many large industries from mining to aerospace use this technique often. Water jet cutting gives a smooth and accurate edge with no heat distortion and is not limited to the thickness it can cut.
Once you know what options are available when steel cutting for metal fabrication, the next step is to determine which style of machine will do the best job. At Cadet Steel, we keep these factors in mind:
- Determine the thickness of the material you need to cut
- How accurate of an edge do you need
- Determine if cost or productivity is more important to you
It is also crucial to consider the materials when choosing the best process for cutting steel. Water jet cutting is, by far, the most flexible of these cutting methods, because it can cut almost any material.
Laser cutting is limited to metals, a few types of plastics and fiberglass.
Plasma can also be limited and only used to cut conductive metals such as mild steel, stainless, and aluminum. Then again, these are very common materials in what we do here at Cadet, so it makes sense that plasma is a go-to method.
HOW MUCH DOES STEEL CUTTING FOR METAL FABRICATION COST?
This is a pressing question that will vary widely due to the size of the project, quantity and timeline as well as material thickness and processes required. It is always best to start with a quote on your idea to determine what you can afford and ensure the best outcome from your metal fabricator.
The best course of action is to sit down with a team like Cadet Steel. We house an expansive workshop and our team of experts knows steel cutting inside and out. We’ll pinpoint all the best processes to get your project finished quickly, from steel cutting to finishing services.
If you’d like to get costing from our experts, you’re welcome to call or request information using our contact form. We look forward to partnering with you on your next project.