Why Is Laser-Cutting Better for Sheet Metal Fabrication than Punching?

Sheet metal fabrication technology has advanced to the point where punching, which was once the go-to method, has been almost entirely surpassed by laser cutting. Though punching still holds a few niche benefits, the advantages that come with laser cutting have made it a hard-to-ignore process, and there are plenty of reasons why it makes a better choice than punching.

If you're unsure, just read this quick and easy guide covering the differences between punching and laser cutting and why the latter method is typically superior.

What Is the Difference Between Punching and Laser-Cutting?

When sheet metal is cut using a punching machine, the sheet is placed onto a lower surface and then punched through with an upper tool, which is fittingly labelled 'the punch'. It does the job, but it's likely to seem like quite an outdated method of cutting and shaping metal when compared to laser-cutting. The laser-cutting procedure makes its mark by cutting through materials using powerful CO2 lasers in most cases.

What Makes Laser-Cutting Superior to Punching?

Laser cutting comes with plenty of advantages during the sheet metal fabrication process. Perhaps most importantly, laser cutting offers far more versatile design choices, so you can create nearly any type of edge, which isn't an option when you go for punching. The metal won't be put through any kind of physical force during the fabrication process, so its integrity will not be compromised and the surface will show no abrasion from the use of physical tools. Better yet, the cut surfaces will be burr-free with practically no roughness, especially when you're using thinner sheets of metal. Minimal waste is generated, so laser cutting is also advantageous from an environmental point of view.

If you're going to be fabricating the metal yourself, you'll find that laser cutting holds one further key benefit over punching. As the name suggests, punching can be an extremely loud way to shape and cut metal. This is inconvenient and potentially damaging for your ears and those of anyone else on your site. Unfortunately, excessive noise often makes it difficult to comply with industry safety standards or local noise regulations, so this is something you will have to look into. Some punching machines have tried to innovate around this problem introducing new elements to help quell the noise, but they are never going to create a machine that is as quiet as laser-cutting, which is a practically soundless process.