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What is cheapest? Laser cutting, cnc, plasma cutting, or water? Answered

I am in need a service to cut bulk loads of parts, I am just throwing this question on in hope that I can have a little bit of guidance.





For wood, CNC ($1500) is going to get things done much faster. Lasers ($8K) are cheaper, but can't cut metal. Those cost a lot more ($100K). Plasma is perfect for metal, but an automated CNC plasma cutter is going to run anywhere from $4K to $40K depending on how big the material is. Water jet is good for thick pieces, but is very expensive ($100K). I hope that helps.

For mild steel up to about 0.10 inch, punch is probably the least expensive for mass production. Most of your cost will be in preprocess, ie, generating the documentation that makes the process work. Make sure your technical drawings are well done, and expect to go thru a cycling with the mfg engineering and drafting folks before the stamping/cutting/etc process is actually begun.

I'd suggest you crack open the "Yellow pages" (phone book) and find out who does metal fabrication in your area, then schedule a sit down with the most competent ones on your call list. There are also online companies that will do work like this via the net. I've only experience for printed circuit boards in that area.

As Nacho says, WHAT you're cutting affects the answer, as does quantity. For example in sheet metal, laser cutting is great, but massproduction uses punching, whcih is vastly faster.

Plasma is cheap, and not very pretty on aluminium, laser is probably second cheapest, but works OK. Abrasive water jet gives the best edge quality, but most expensive. Water jet works in thick plates, and the others don't. cheaply. If you had a plasma set for 3" plate, you wouldn't waste it on 1mm.


The Parts, are mainly brackets like 2mm aluminum 16cm x 4mm and 1mm x 16cm x 4cm

.  What type of material do you want to cut - 1/16" HDPE, 3" 316SS?
.  How complicated is the cut - straight lines, cogs?
.  How quickly do you need the parts?