Advantage laser

© Illustration | Markus Weißenhorn

A simple example illustrates how lasers are faster and more energy-efficient than milling machines at cutting sheet metal.

To make a one-meter-long cut through a five-millimeter-thick stainless steel plate, an end mill with a diameter of 10 millimeters and a tool power of approx. 0.4 kilowatts takes 14 minutes* and consumes 0.093 kilowatt hours of energy.

There is more

Laser cutting

The laser can handle a variety of cutting tasks. These range from micrometer-precise cutting joints in paper-thin semiconductor chips to quality cuts in 30-millimeter­thick steel. In laser drilling, the laser beam generates very small to large holes in metals, plastics, paper and stone, without contact. Read more about laser cutting and laser cutting machines made by TRUMPF

While a TruDisk 5000 laser operates at approx. 20 kilowatts while completing the same task, it makes the cut in just 12 seconds, meaning that it consumes a mere 0.066 kilowatt hours. This one isolated example of the cutting process is sufficient to demonstrate that input power alone says nothing about a tool’s energy efficiency. Despite its significantly higher input power, the laser is faster and more economical than the mill.

The contrast becomes even starker if we factor waste into the equation. Cutting plates with the laser means 0.015 kilograms of material are lost through the cutting kerf. The energy required to manufacture this amount of steel is 0.078 kilowatt hours**. For the same process, the mill produces 0.39 kilograms worth of chips, which require 1.95 kilowatt hours to manufacture**.

Overall, then, the laser wins hands down: when we factor material savings into the equation, the laser is much more efficient, requiring 0.144 kilowatt hours to carry out the task for which the mill needs 2.043 kilowatt hours.

*Assuming a feed rate of 70 mm/min
**5 kWh/kg energy required to manufacture steel

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