One of the most pervasive machines in industrial manufacturing is the pipe cutter. Plumbers, home builders and HVAC installers are just some of the many professionals who use this tool to cut metals and plastics. While a hacksaw is one of the most basic tools for pipe cutting, there are also machines that do the job faster and more accurately. Here’s a deeper look at cutting machines for various industrial applications to help you decide the most appropriate choice.
Hot vs. Cold Cutting
The two types of pipe cutting are known as hot cutting and cold cutting. While hot cutting involves a thermal torch powered by an electric motor, cold cutting is done without the use of heat, usually powered by air or hydraulic machines. Plasma cutting, which relies on gases to cut through raw materials, is a form of hot cutting, while water jet metal cutting is a new form of cold cutting.
It’s easier to cut materials faster with cold cuts due to high pressure water. Cold cuts allow for greater precision and control because of the limited area for pressurized water to flow. It’s also an effective solution for cutting a wider variety of materials, since hot cutting can only be used on materials that can withstand high temperatures. Both hot and cold methods can be used for welding preparation and various industrial applications.
Industrial Cutting Applications
A primary reason for pipe cutting is to clear away unnecessary piping or tubing. Here are some of the many other applications that use cutting machinery:
- installing or repairing HVAC systems on roofs
- ship building
- factory renovation
- manufacturing for the automotive industry
- metal fabrication
One of the key reasons that laser cutting is now one of the most widely used processes in manufacturing is because it delivers accuracy, high quality and reliability. These machines can cut various metals, such as steel, brass and copper, as well as gemstones, ceramics and silicon. It’s a technology that has introduced modern techniques that conventional tools don’t offer. These unique techniques include laser beam control, melting a surface layer to display a laser marking and laser drilling, which creates holes or dents in material.
Different types of laser cutters can be used for specific projects. A gas laser cutter is suitable for non-metals, although it’s still capable of cutting metal. Crystal laser cutters use solid state technology and are useful for high powered cutting of either metals or non-metals. Both gas and crystal laser cutters were invented in 1964 by the same company, Bell Labs. Doctors and dentists commonly use crystal laser cutters. These machines, however, are expensive and have a shorter lifespan than other laser cutters.
Fiber laser cutters are similar to crystal laser cutters in the sense that they use solid state technology, work for metal or non-metals and have a similar wavelength. They are exponentially more powerful than gas laser cutters and are much more durable than other laser cutters, as they typically have a lifespan of up to 25,000 hours. They also don’t require as much maintenance and comprise inexpensive replacement parts.
Automated Cutting Machines
Contractors who work on large projects or do high volume activity often use computer numerical control (CNC) machines, which rely on computer automation. A huge advantage to these state-of-the-art machines is that they make more accurate cuts in less time, saving time and money for clients. They are very useful for punching holes in metal or cutting complex shapes without secondary processing. Since they can be used for a wide variety of challenging cutting applications, these machines attract high-end business.
CNC technology is used for flame, plasma, laser and waterjet cutting machines. A CNC laser cutting machine is favored by eco-friendly contractors and clients at the expense of slower speed, less efficiency and higher cost. But it does provide high precision, unlike a CNC flame cutting machine, which is more suited for steel and sheet metal. CNC plasma machines are popular because they provide high efficiency and fast cutting for a wide number of thin and thick metal applications.
This computer-oriented process is based on pre-programmed software that controls complex tools and machinery including lathes and routers. It allows for simplified 3D cutting and specific dimensional tasks. It’s capable of cutting in more than one direction at the same time. A human is still needed to operate buttons, levers and wheels and make sure the equipment is working properly. The programming is fed to the computer from a punch card and can be archived for future use.
Deciding on the proper cutting machine comes down to several factors including material, thickness, shapes, speed and precision. While there are a wide number of machines to choose from, a simple solution is to use a multi-purpose cutter that can handle the specific material being cut.