Reducing sheet metal wastage and offcuts is an important aspect in making your laser cutting machines more cost-efficient. While some wasted materials will be inevitable when cutting or bending metal, aiming to reduce the offcuts and scrap metal is at the forefront of every sheet metal manufacturer’s mind. At ACRA Machinery, we know how best to maximise the use of your offcuts and avoid scrap wastage when using your laser cutter. Read on for some quick ideas to reduce your business’ scrap metal waste.


Why is reducing wastage important?

Reducing metal waste when using a laser cutter has significant economic and environmental benefits. By planning your metal cutting techniques as efficiently as possible, you can control your manufacturing costs by maximising your material’s utilisation.

Reducing the unnecessary production of scrap metal saves your business money on material, reduces costs related to the transport of waste and reduces time spent cutting materials. It also minimises the amount of metal that heads to landfills and the emissions caused by unnecessary usage of your business’ sheet metal machines. After limiting your offcuts from your workpieces, consider investigating the process of recycling scrap metal for additional income.


1. Group pieces close together

Assess your current nesting of shapes when laser cutting. Is there a better method of arrangement that would get you a greater number of useful parts? If you are using manual nesting, be very intentional with your arrangement and group shapes together to fit the maximum number of useful pieces. For more complex or detailed projects, consider investing in automated nesting tools.

Automated nesting will combine shapes and quickly arrange designs into a pattern that allows less wastage of the workpiece, reducing your sheet metal costs. Preparing your arrangement and optimising your file layout from the beginning is also a very savvy and efficient approach for repeat orders.


2. Introduce shared cutting lines

A simple method of improving the use of your material is to always confirm that all shapes are sharing cutting lines when nesting. Rather than unnecessarily leaving space between shapes, arrange rectangular edges to share straight lines on the workpiece. This method prevents wasted material and shortens the machine’s cutting path, further reducing the usage time and running costs of the laser cutter.

Check that the laser cutting file has single cutting lines when the shapes are placed side-by-side and that you’ve accounted for how much the material the laser burns away. If your design features double lines or any overlap, your laser cutter will incorrectly cut twice.


3. Reduce curves and unnecessary components

Check for any curves or unnecessarily complex shapes during nesting to use the metal sheet as efficiently as possible. Curves and extreme details slow down the laser cutting process, so consider if there is a way to eliminate or replace these components. If the curved shapes are integral to the project, consider reducing the laser cutter’s traverse time by setting starting cuts at different positions for increased efficiency. This could be as simple as setting the first circle’s starting cut at the 3 o’clock position and setting the second circle’s starting cut at the 9 o’clock position for a shorter distance between cutting points. Remember, if the project contains many unavoidable curves and details, be sure to account for the increased process complexity in the client cost.


Keep trimmed material for future laser cutting projects

Not all scrap pieces are useless. Before simply dismissing your offcuts as wasted material, determine if there are pieces that can be reused to cut out more delicate parts. As laser cutting is highly detailed and accurate, there is little burring on the material, making the metal perfect for other projects. This could include smaller detailed work or test runs.  Although, keep in mind that many of these metals will have lost their tensile strength. Good quality storage will keep your offcuts fit for your next project by preventing damage or marks, so ensure that all scrap pieces are stored appropriately


Looking for a laser cutter?

ACRA Machinery stock a variety of laser cutters for your workshop including both new and used options. With over 150 years of experience, our expert technicians are available for all your sheet metal machinery needs to help give your laser cutter the best possible operational life.

If you’re looking to increase your workshop’s laser cutting capabilities, get in touch with us by calling 03 9794 6674 or contact us via our online enquiry form.