As we usher into an age where infrastructure becomes more refined and architecture becomes more diverse, we are constantly evolving our methods through the development of newer machinery and technologies that can aid us in our construction of buildings and furniture.
Countless engineers every day try to come up with ingenious ideas to achieve efficient methods to doing things. An example of this is cutting technologies, and today we have laser cutting, plasma cutting, and water jet cutting services available in the market.
With such a huge variety of methods, we can simply adjust so many things depending on preference and availability.
Let us use the examples and discuss how different these technologies are, in their application, usage, and their implications.
Water Jet Cutting: Water can cut things too
Water Jet Cutting is a technique that is in contrast to laser cutting and is performed in cold conditions which means that the surfaces that are in contact with the medium are not at risk of deformity. Water is being gushed out by the machine under high pressure, and sometimes abrasive particles are added.
Water jet cutting is used to perform complex operations, although it might take expertise and practice to do so.
Laser Cutting: Heat is the common catalyst for change
Laser cutting is a non-contact cutting technique using electromagnetic waves, more commonly using radioactive/ultraviolet heat or infrared rays. Because this technique requires exposure to heat by burning, melting, or evaporation of the material, there is the risk and possibility of deforming the material near the cutting lines or areas of exposure.
Laser widths are adjustable and are known to be very precise. These are even used for certain surgeries and the creation of very small device components such as the gears in our watches. But depending on the material, using laser heat may cause more damage than the cutting work that we desired.
Plasma Cutting: Using electricity to do the work for you
Plasma, commonly known as the fourth state of matter, is created by heating matter to extremely hot temperatures. Examples of plasma include lightning and electric sparks. In this technique, gas is more commonly used and is heated to the point of electrons leaving the atoms of the gas making it ionized. Because this method uses a medium akin to electricity, it only works for materials that are electrically conductive such as most metals.
The plasma machine converts gas to plasma and exposes it to an electric arc, thereby creating a plasma beam that is used to melt the surface of the metal and perform the cutting process.
Choosing a method for the process, not the outcome
We’ve introduced three different cutting techniques, and how these are performed differently and achieved through different mediums. While most would rather say, we’d choose what’s the fastest, easiest, and perhaps the cheapest method since after all, they all achieve the same outcome, which is to cut materials.
There are implications by which most engineers should abide when considering a method to use. These techniques are less likely developed because of the lack of availability, but rather because their intended usage differed and how these affected their purpose and functions after the operations.
Let’s say for example one opted for a laser cutting procedure on a thin sheet of aluminum. While it’s true that after the procedure, your aluminum sheet has been cut to your preferred shapes and sizes. However, while it may not be visible to the naked eye, the chemical structure and composition of the edges of the cut metal or the surfaces near to the cutting lines have been altered or deteriorated due to exposure to heat, as heat is a great catalyst of change and it does not even need temperatures approaching melting point to make the atoms in the metal prance around, thereby deforming its atomic structure and leading to brittleness.
There are so many factors relating to physics that might affect your cutting outcomes and in turn, might affect the usage of the objects you’ve opted for cutting. It might even lead to harm or loss of life, that is why do not hesitate to consult engineers or professionals and choose the right cutting technique for yourself.