Cutting Thin Sheet Metal

Lasers can be used to cut many types of thin metal, including sheet metal, such as sheet metal and thin foils, into complex shapes with high precision. Pairing the high-energy density of a focused laser spot with on-axis gas assist allows for clean cuts that often require no further processing. Laser cutting of thin metals is used in many industries such as automotive, appliances, electronics (resistor trimming, LED PCBs), energy (batteries), medical devices, and many more.

Contact the engineers at Control Micro Systems, Inc. today to learn more about how our custom laser cutting machines can solve your metal cutting needs.

Femtosecond Laser Cutting

Learn more about femtosecond laser processing.

Advantages of Laser Cutting for Thin Foils & Sheet Metals:

  • No Contact Cutting – No cutting blades to sharpen or replace. And, no extra force on the thin metal being cut prevents warping or other damage.
  • Precise Control – Focused, localized laser energy allows for very narrow cuts with small kerf widths and the ability to cut detailed, intricate patterns into sheet metal and thin foils.
  • No consumables – There are no extra consumable products used in laser cutting of thin metals as in other methods of cutting metal. Unlike other methods:
    • Plasma cutting requires specific mixtures of gases to cut specific metals; while, laser cutting using “gas-assist” only uses dry air or standard inert gases.
    • Water jet cutting uses a water plus abrasive mixture that requires replenishment and proper disposal.

Methods for Laser Cutting Thin Foils & Sheet Metal:

Wavelengths of lasers for cutting metals range from UV to NIR. Fiber lasers (1064nm) can be used to melt and ablate the metal quickly and are used for high speed metal cutting. DPSS (diode pumped solid state) lasers (fundamental, doubled, or tripled) are a common choice for higher precision work. UV lasers (frequency tripled diode lasers) especially can be used for precision cuts that require fine details, minimal kerf width, and low heat affected zone (HAZ). The UV laser can also be used when clean cut edge quality is critical to an application. For the best cut quality, ultrafast (femtosecond and picosecond) lasers can also be used to cut metals and coated metals. CMS Laser’s Applications Lab will help determine the correct laser and optics setup for your needs through our Free Sample Processing.

Two common methods for laser cutting are:

  • Gas Assisted Thin Metal Cutting:

In this method, a laser head, with gas assist, and the thin or sheet metal are moved relative to each other by gantry or table motion. The full depth of the cut is performed in a single pass. In gas assist cutting, on-axis gas assist can be used to reduce the HAZ and oxidation on cuts while preventing slag from remaining on the back side of the cut. 

  • Galvanometer Steered Thin Metal Cutting:

Using a galvanometer to steer the beam is an alternative method of cutting thin and sheet metals with a laser. The computer controlled galvanometer allows for high speed cutting patterns. This method also has the ability to cut using multiple repetitions of the same pattern in quick succession which reduces localized heat induced strain in the part.