Punch it, laser-cut it, or something else? The sequel

The machine tool that once was considered to be the best tool for the job 10 years ago is not necessarily the same tool a fabricator might use today to accomplish the same fabricating goals. Punch presses, laser cutting machines, and machines with both capabilities have all changed and, frankly, can do more than previous generations of technology.

Punching machines still can produce hole-intensive parts like machines of the past, but fiber laser technology, with its small spot size when compared to more traditional CO2 laser technology, can rip through sheet metal of gauge thickness at incredible rates. Of course, fabricators can still form and perform other functions on the punching machine that can’t be done on the laser cutting machine. The debate over what machine tool technology to use is not as clear-cut as it once was.

Part of the debate is the combination machine, either a punch/laser or a punch/shear. These machines obviously can accomplish much more without the need for an operator to move the part from one operation to another, but a fabricator may not have the right part mix or production goals to justify this type of investment. Again, more information is needed to decide what makes the most sense for a fabricating operation.

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