In the first of our brand-new series of blogs, we wanted to start with a hot topic. There are many common misconceptions surrounding laser cutting. Our experienced team at Blackman & White were set the task of debunking these myths. Here is what they said.
Laser cutting is a powerful tool for snag-free, sealed-edge cutting of textiles for a variety of applications from printed signage to airbags and sailcloth.
With fast processing speeds, high production rates and the ability to cut intricate shapes, coupled with its high reliability and low maintenance, the laser ensures a consistent high-quality cut.
With additional functionality such as cutting acrylic with a polished edge, at Blackman & White we have supplied hundreds of customers with this unique cutting technology on a flatbed or conveyorised cutting table. Here are some of the frequently asked questions:
1. FUME EXTRACTION– HOW DO WE MAKE SURE WE ARE KEEPING OUR WORKING ENVIRONMENT CLEAN AND SAFE DURING LASER CUTTING?
All Blackman & White Laser Cutters are fitted with state-of-the art fume extraction unit which removes fumes directly from the cut area and dissipates them as they pass through a series of filters. This filtration system has replaceable filters which ensures that all fumes are removed from the working environment. A result of the laser cutting process is that there can be a lingering odour (outgassing) depending on the material being cut, this is an inevitable part of the process and quickly fades from the cut sample within a few minutes.
2. ARE THE FUMES DANGEROUS?
The fumes and debris emitted by the majority of materials that would be cut with the laser are non-toxic, but if you have any concerns, the fabric manufacturer will have published relevant Health and Safety information.
3. DOES LASER CUTTING LEAVE A BROWN EDGE?
On dark textiles there is no obvious discoloration, however, with white and light-coloured fabrics some slight browning may occur. This can be minimised by using the correct parameters such as laser power, purge air (air pressure) and cut speed, all of which are very simple to adjust on our laser cutting systems.
Woods and MDF will naturally brown when being laser cut.
4. IS LASER CUTTING SLOWER THAN KNIFE CUTTING?
Not necessarily. Depending on the material, for example, a flag material can be cut as fast if not faster than a rotary wheel tool. A heavy canvas might need to be cut at a slower speed to allow for the material density. Variation in speed is dependent on the material being cut.
5. WHY LASER CUTTING INSTEAD OF HOT KNIFE?
A Hot knife creates hazardous fumes which cannot be controlled as there is no dedicated fume extraction systems integrated to the tool. Hot knife cutting is often an additional process which is time consuming and requires contact with the material in order to seal the edge. The laser is contactless cutting and therefore eliminates the risk of distortion and fabric stretching.
6. IS CHANGING THE CONVEYORISED LASER BELT DIFFICULT TO DO?
No. The patented laser belt is designed with quick-change functionality in mind. Simple storage when not in use means that cutting on the felt bed is quickly changed to laser cutting by laying the belt over the table with minimal manpower.
7. CAN I CUT PVC WITH THE LASER?
PVC is not suited to laser cutting. The fumes emitted, whilst extracted by the filtration system, are toxic, and any residual fumes released by the material after cutting are not recommended for inhalation. PVC can be cut with the laser but apart from the fumes, the discolouration to the material edge makes the finished product unacceptable
8. WHY LASER CUTTING INSTEAD OF ROTARY WHEEL?
Highly reliable non-contact laser cutting ensures no accidental lifting or moving of the fabrics while cutting. Furthermore, there is no risk of the wrapping of threads around cutting wheels, and no fraying of edges as they are sealed when cut with the laser.
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