When it comes to cutting metal, only a few techniques can compare to the precision and accuracy that laser cutting offers. With laser cutting, you can get parts at a higher speed, produce less waste, reduce your tool requirements, and get an overall higher quality product. However, all of it comes at a cost.
Laser cutting service cost depend on numerous factors starting from the type of laser to your material and your overall precision requirements. The following takes a detailed look at all those factors and discusses how you can get the best price for your project.
Top 7 Factors That Affect Laser Cutting Service Cost
It’s true that laser cutting is a costly affair if you compare it with traditional methods. However, considering laser cutting advantages and the value for money, it’s actually more cost-effective than other technical methods like waterjet cutting.
Generally, how much is laser cutting going to cost depends on the labor involved, the total time, and the design complexities. However, that is a very broad perspective. If you take at the granular factors that determine the overall laser cutting cost per inch, you’ll find the following to be the most important ones.
1 – The Laser Cutting Machine Costs
Laser cutting machine costs are a primary capital investment that affects the overall viability and price you have to pay. The equipment you need to get started with laser cutting requires a significant investment and you’ll have to continue to bear the costs of maintaining it as well.
That’s why approaching a laser cutting service instead of investing in the setup is the better approach. You’ll have access to all the expertise you might need and won’t have to spend more than what’s needed.
A significant factor for determining how much laser cutting equipment costs you is the type of laser. The industry either uses a CO2 laser or a fiber one. CO2 lasers are slightly cheaper but they are limited in their operations and have high operational costs. On the other hand, fiber lasers can cut faster, better, and quicker. Even the operational costs are low too. However, the fiber laser cutting machine price is a lot higher than the other option.
2 – Charge per Minute of Laser Cutting Machine Usage
Another important parameter that affects the overall laser cutting service cost is the total time it took and the overall rate per minute. The service you select will offer you a certain rate depending on the overall complexity, the type of laser, and the labor involved. Once the rate is set, your service provider will simply multiply it with the total time to get the final price.
During the design phase of a project, you can get an idea of how much a particular project or part will cost you. You can use a laser cutting time calculator to estimate the overall charges that you’ll have to pay.
3 – Laser Engraving Cost
Depending on the project requirement, you might have to add and engrave some surfaces as well. Engraving is a simpler process as it only superficially cuts the surface to leave a permanent mark rather than going through it. The surface you have, the material properties, and multiple other factors determine the total cost you’ll have to bear.
Like before, there are many laser engraving price calculators that can help you estimate the overall costs of your project.
4 – Cost of Materials
Naturally, the material you use will have a direct effect on the overall laser cutting costs of your project. Depending on the laser cutting material, the laser cutting cost per inch would be different because each material, regardless of the mechanical properties, has different costs due to availability and multiple other factors.
For instance, the cost of laser cutting steel would be lower than that of high-grade Aluminum even if all the other factors like the design and the time required are the same. That’s because high-grade Aluminum is more expensive. Therefore, your laser-cutting service costs will be naturally high.
5 – Wall Thickness
The thicker the material is the more time it would take the laser to penetrate and cut through it all. That’s why the overall thickness of the material has an effect on the laser cutting service cost. The general rule of thumb states that the longer your machine operates, the higher the costs will be.
Furthermore, thinner parts using sheet metal can also be processed simultaneously. This means that you can stack multiple parts on top of each other and cut them at the same time. Doing so allows you to increase your output with minimal increase in effort. Thereby reducing the costs.
However, you need to be careful about the number of layers. Too many would take the thickness beyond the laser’s overall cutting capacity and may increase your costs.
6 – Order Quantities
The time it takes for the laser to warm up is also included in the final costs. That’s where the economy of scale kicks in. For high-volume orders, the laser doesn’t need a reset and can continue to operate directly. Resultingly bringing the overall costs down.
7 – Shipping and Distribution
Finally, logistics also play an important part in determining the overall laser cutting service cost you have to pay. The shipping prices depend on the quantity, the overall weight, the geo-location of your supplier, and the overall regulations. All these factors combine to increase your costs.
Some Additional Considerations for High Laser Cutting Service Costs
While the aforementioned factors will always have an effect on how much is laser cutting going to cost you. There are some additional considerations as well that are generally exclusive to laser cutting services.
Your design has a direct effect on the overall laser cutting costs. In the simplest terms, complex designs require slower processing which increases the overall machine time and increases your costs.
Furthermore, extremely complex designs also increase the overall risks for the project and may even require some design alterations of post-processing. Which further increases the costs.
Urgent Order Increase Laser Cutting Cost
Like any project, the lead time also affects the costs of your project. Urgent jobs require more resources because of the increased demand. Naturally, you’d want to refrain from compromising on the quality as well. Therefore, the only option left would be to accept the higher cost.
The strength of the material will affect both the laser cutting time and the shipping methods. Rigid and strong metals or other materials might need more time for the laser to work but don’t require any special considerations during transport.
On the other hand, fragile material will be very easy to process for the laser. However, you’ll have to be extra careful during shipping. Fragile materials might break or deform permanently, resulting in a waste of both time and resources.
Another common reason for increased laser cutting service costs is an additional requirement to customize the part.
Features like additional engraving, sharp edges, unusual corners, or anything else might need additional machine time or labor cost. As a result, the overall cost of your project will be affected.
Cost Comparison Between Laser Cutting and Waterjet Cutting
Both laser cutting and waterjet cutting are highly technical and accurate methods. The basic concept behind both operations is similar as well. The machines use the same CNC guidance and other basic details for the process. However, the way it’s done is entirely different.
The laser cutting process relies on the thermal penetration power of a high-energy laser to cut through the material. Meanwhile, a waterjet cutter uses a high-speed stream of water for the same effect. As far as the costs are concerned, the CNC laser cutting machine price would be higher than the waterjet counterpart. However, the operational costs are the opposite. You’d have to spend more money to maintain and operate a waterjet cutter than a laser one.
RapidDirect: The Leading Laser Cutting Service You Can Count On
Laser cutting is a highly technical process that sets itself apart because of its unmatched precision and accuracy. The process delivers the quickest results and creates minimal waste as well, which makes it ideal. There is, however, a huge disadvantage as well. Between the initial capital costs and the operational expenses, the cost of laser cutting can skyrocket quickly.
Approaching an experienced laser cutting service can help you optimize your design and save costs without compromising on the quality of your results.
When it comes to laser cutting services, your best bet is to choose someone reliable, convenient, experienced, and cost-effective. RapidDirect checks all these boxes. Not only do we have an experienced team that knows the ins and outs of the laser cutting process, but there are also a lot of automated features to facilitate our process.
We offer a comprehensive online manufacturing quotation platform that eliminates the need of using laser cutting time calculators or laser cutting design price estimations. The RapidDirect platform is 100% online where all you’ll have to do is upload your part design along with some other details.
The intuitive platform allows you to compare the overall laser cutting service costs according to the order requirements, material, surface finishes, and other parameters in no time. Moreover, you can choose your lead time, shipping details, and all other parameters to ensure that you’re getting the best overall price and service in the shortest time that your project allows.
Why Choose Laser Cutting for Part Development?
Laser cutting stands as one of the most advanced techniques that deliver accurate and quick results while creating minimum waste. While the cost is high because of several factors introduced above, it is a viable choice, especially for sensitive applications and instances where you are dealing with limited expensive material.
In such cases, choosing laser cutting for processing the part is a much better decision. Here are a few main reasons why you should choose laser cutting over its alternatives.
Accuracy and Precision
Laser cutters are basically unmatched with regards to accuracy. CNC programs the cutters to perform complex cuts into intricate shapes, and lasers produce these cuts with unrivaled precision. A laser cutter makes clean edges and a smooth finish.
Furthermore, there is minimal or no waste in the process. This precision makes great parts as well. Since laser cutters can deliver such serious precision, they are ideal for aerospace parts and medical gadgets, where strict quality standards are not optional.
Lower Lead Times
Laser cutting is known for its capacity to cut metal accurately at quick paces. While managing metals under 3/8″ thick, laser cutters will cut quickly. Exceeding that, the time needed increases, but the process is still very quick.
Laser cutters are appropriate for both low and high-volume production and can drastically reduce the processing times. Whenever manufacturers utilize the right kind of laser cutter for the job, they can offer the quickest services.
Ability to Handle Complex Jobs with Greater Consistency
The laser cutting process can handle more complex and unusual geometries. The laser relies on CNC technology and the design elements have fewer restrictions than other techniques. Furthermore, a CNC laser can also churn out multiple parts simultaneously while dealing with sheet metals.
Since a computer controls the CNC laser, you can also be sure that every part you create will have the same qualities and capabilities. That’s ideal for high-volume manufacturing where maintaining consistency between batches is a huge part of the job.
The accuracy and precision of laser cutting mean that you don’t have to deal with a lot of waste material. The material you leave behind can become a huge driver of cost, especially when you deal with expensive and rare metals. In all cases, laser cutting costs include material costs as well. Low waste means that you can get the job done with fewer resources, resulting in more efficiency without any loss of effectiveness.
Minimum Damage or Flaws
Since laser cutters produce exceptionally exact cuts, they have lower post-processing requirements. Edges delivered by a laser cutter are smooth and burr-free. The lasers also don’t dissipate heat throughout the piece, which minimizes flaws due to thermal stresses.
Moreover, laser cutters deliver top caliber, precise cuts. Resultingly, maintaining quality checks becomes easy. Laser cutters ensure that all design elements and requirements are there in the final part for guaranteed performance.
Calling laser cutting versatile is an understatement. The process is capable of handling the most complex shapes with relative ease and minimal waste. That’s not all! It works with almost all kinds of materials. Metals, plastics, wood, or anything else. A laser cutter can easily handle any material and deliver you with the same consistency, accuracy, and efficiency.
Laser cutting is a versatile process that produces exceptionally precision parts but it comes at higher costs. However, if you are in need of a custom laser cutting service with competitive pricing, you can navigate to RapidDirect. Upload your design file and get your quote in seconds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Laser cutters emit a high-energy laser beam that focuses on a particular surface and cut through it through a thermal process. A laser cutter uses CNC coordinated to plat a course for the laser to cut through the material and obtain the shapes you need.
It’s always better to outsource your laser cutting operations because it allows you to get access to technical experts. Moreover, doing it can also help you avoid exuberant laser cutting machine costs. Industrial laser cutters are quite expensive to set up and come with a plethora of maintenance and operational requirements. Approaching a service can help you avoid all that hassle and give simply deliver the best results to your customers. Furthermore, many top-tier laser cutting services also offer other manufacturing facilities and design optimization services as well. This allows you to always ensure consistent and accurate results at the lowest cost.
No, engraving is a different process. It uses high-energy lasers, that’s correct. However, the intensity is low, which means that the laser can’t penetrate the whole metal and leave a permanent mark according to your design.