Although laser cutting revolutionised the sheet metal fabricating industry when it first emerged in the 1960s, punch technology has also advanced to a point where it is now competitive with laser technology for some processes. In this article, we compare the various strengths and weaknesses of turret punch and fibre laser cutting technologies.
Turret punch machinery eliminates the need for secondary operations and is reasonably productive with around 1,000 hits per minute. Laser cutters are state of the art in terms of speed and are able to reach speeds of around 10,000 hits per minute. In fact, the incredible production capabilities of the fibre laser can actually overwhelm manual operations and make it necessary to invest in a completely automated system capable of keeping up with the cutting speed.
Turret punching is a highly cost effective tool that is energy efficient with it’s servo-electric power source. However, it is vulnerable to wear and does still require regular maintenance to keep the tools sharp. Laser cutters on the other hand, have a higher initial setup cost but have a lower operational cost due to having lower maintenance needs. They require no oil or filters and have a simple design which requires very little training to operate competently.
Laser cutters are capable of cutting highly reflective materials including brass and copper. Turret punch machinery is also capable of working with a versatile range of materials including aluminium, cold rolled steel, and stainless steel.
Fibre lasers are ideally suited to cutting materials with a thickness less than 0.6cm although recent technological advancements mean some beams can be altered with additional optics technology to cut thick materials. Turret punch machinery on the other hand is well suited to hole intensive parts and those with knockouts. Typically, punch presses can work with materials up to 0.8cm thickness. This technology has also advanced to facilitate a dynamic range of forms including flanges, up forms, contouring, marking and tapping. Laser cutters are also highly flexible and can produce virtually any contour.
When it comes to precision, nothing comes to close to laser cutters in terms of performance. This aside, the servo-electric power that turret punch machinery runs off delivers a much higher precision finish than hydraulically powered machinery.