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Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pros and Cons

Publish Date: Jan. 08, 2022 Author: Tina Publisher: EagleTec CNC Modify Date: Jan. 08, 2022

Nowadays, as the price of laser generators goes down, fiber laser cutting machines have become more popular. So, many metal cutting friends doubt whether I should spend more money upgrading my cnc plasma table to a laser table?


Please don't decide in a hurry. We'd better look at the advantages and disadvantages of the two kinds of equipment first. Here, we take 3mm, 0.8mm carbon steel, and 2.2mm aluminum sheets as examples to show how many differences these two machines have during the cutting process and effect.


The two machines we use are EagleTec CNC plasma cutting machine with the water table and Hypertherm 45A source, and fiber laser cutter with 1kw laser source.

cnc plasma cutting machine with water table and 45amp hypertherm source

fiber laser cutter with 1kw laser source

First, 3mm Carbon Steel (11 gauge hot rolled steel) Cutting

Our operator sets a 2,500mm/min cut rate for the plasma table and 2,800mm/min for the fiber laser cutter.

plasma and fiber laser cutting

There is a comparison: the left one comes off the laser and the right one still wet comes off the plasma. So let's get a side-by-side comparison of plasma versus laser.

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

The left is the front side and the right is the back. 

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

Even though we had slowed down by 20% to cut holes, it is still pretty common, even with fine cuts to get dross on its back. Then let's stand them up on edge and look at the edge quality and also the dimensions. You can see it's plasma that does a good and accurate job.

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

Second, 0.8mm Carbon Steel Cutting

This time, we set Hypertherm plasma fine cut at 8,800mm/min speed. Set 1kw fiber laser 1.0mm nozzle 25,000mm/min (Nitrogen Assist)


Here's a quick review of plasma vs. laser 20-gauge material, and The left is the front side of the laser.

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

You can see that all of our tiny bridges are intact. The right picture is the back of it. This sheet is just a scrap piece for testing, and it's got some rust and stuff on the back. With the beautiful cutting result of laser, you could paint or do whatever you want, such as powder coat it, bend it heat-treated, etc.

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

So, this is the plasma cutting project. And you can see in a few areas that almost snip the bridge away. And then other areas completely blew it away. You can see it throughout the back of the piece. So, it doesn't make any sense to pre grain your cold-rolled or anything on a plasma because you really have a lot of cleanup work to do. Even though you get it cleaned up now and then after you get them twisted and bent up that dross or come off. However, the dross is not a lot in some areas. But you know it's challenging to clean the areas since the dross is pretty hard. Also, it isn't easy to hold that thin material while you're trying to grind it. And all that, it's not a good solution. This is really where the laser shines over plasma. On thicker materials like quarter-inch steel, you have difficulty finding many of the differences. There is a difference, but this is where it really stands out.

Thirdly, 2.2mm Aluminum Sheet (0.090" 5052 Aluminum) Cutting

We set cnc table plasma cutter at 4000mm/min and 1kw fiber laser 1.5mm nozzle 4500mm/min (Nitrogen Assist)


The lift height on both the laser and the plasma is set two inches, but the short moves between each of those holes on the laser. The main difference is that the fiber laser cutter machine retracts and Rapids simultaneously where the plasma does its full retract. And when that's complete, it's rapids, and then one appears the next hole, so these holes are both cutting at the same speed. The rapid acceleration and the combination of the rapping and retracting simultaneously make the laser cutting machine so different and outstanding. Cutting the Same project takes a cnc plasma cutter for 14 minutes, while 4 minutes is enough for a fiber laser table.

Fiber laser cutting machine versus plasma table: Pro's and Con's

Now we can go the comparison of laser versus plasma on this aluminum. Pic 1 and 2 are plasma cutting projects. Pic 3 is the laser backside. So you can see some detail loss on these minor features in Pic 2, and they don't have precisely square edges as the laser cut does. Nice and Smoothy cutting effect is vital for some expensive cars parts or something else.


In Conclusion


Plasma Table Pro's and Con's


• Low initial purchase cost

• Large support base and online community

• Simple to operate

• Only needs compressed air; low cost to run.

• Ability to cut rusty or painted materials


• Lower accuracy than a laser cutting machine

• Tapered holes and edges messy with water tables

• More post-cut cleanup required large kerf width

• Not good with fine details

• Not good with ultra-thin material


Laser Table Pro's and Con's


• Accuracy down to +/-0.005"

• Superfast rapids and acceleration

• Weight 3000kgs adds rigidity

• Dross free results; Minimal post cut cleanup

• Fast and sensitive height control


• High cost of initial purchase

• Take up more space

• More complex

• Requires O2 or N2 Assist Gas

• More expensive to operate

• Smaller support community;

• More attention to detail with Micro Joints

• Unable to cut rusty or painted material


EagleTec CNC is committed to building fiber laser cutters and cnc plasma tables of excellent quality. If you need our help, please feel free to contact us. 

Note: Partial material comes from the Internet.

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