When there is only the start for sheetmetal fabrication one of the main question is what technology and equipment to choose – punching or laser cutting?
Both technologies are very well known for dozens of years. Moreover, around 30-20 years ago there were models of machine tools to include both cutting processes in one machine. Punching is the key for speed and productivity. Laser cutting is the possibility to cut everything on the sheet and to make the complicated contours of the part.
From one side punching is more complicated. First, you are tighten with punching tools for your machine and can produce the geometry only according to the tools you have in your stock. Second, you are limited with the machine force and hole size – standard machine with 20 tons of punching force is limited with big sizes because of the max. force to obtain. Third is the material thickness. Normally punching is good for 2,3, maybe 4 mm. If you have sheets thicker you need to calculate forces, study the possibility to run 30 or maybe 40 tons of punching force and look for the clamps because they are limited with max. possible weight of the sheet to proceed.
For the second side you have the maximum possible speed because it is very complicated to find other technology to compare with speed for modern punching press. There are really impressive details like 1800 hits per min for nibbling, just try to imagine!
And from the third side is the investment for your new machine as important part of study. Modern CNC punching machines with good brand names are very expensive for sure. But together with them and speedy turret punch press with 30-50 stations there are more simple, less expensive 1-station Multitool punch presses or even semi-automatic solutions. So let say for example, if you look for the turret punching press you can count more than 200 000 EUR, you can study Multitool machines with the prices less than 100 000 EUR. For sure the range of prices is very approximate because we do not sell punching presses.
With laser for sure you will have other details.
First, no tools and you are free to cut everything you want. In this case, besides of your company products the laser is the possibility to run in jobshop – you can cut any part you need without the necessity to order any tooling for any holes.
Second, thickness is the question to the possibility of the laser source but can be 10, 15, even 20 or more mm. So you can cut really thick parts which are impossible to standard punching. Moreover, standard laser table holds the sheet without the movement – it means that there is no clamps and question to the weight of the part.
Third thing that investment could be much more than for punching. But in return you will have the flexibility with the process and there are solutions even for big parts like for example 6 meter long parts. There are no punch presses to realize it with standard punching models.
But for sure the main answer is your application. If there are straight routes on the part, standard applications like doors, metal furniture, electric cabinets, metal cases for electronic, like PC blocks or servers with standard holes and 1,2,3 mm thickness, it is standard work for the punch and you will loose productivity with laser. If, on the contrary, the question is the productivity, thicknesses more than 5 mm, different figure contours, like pieces of garden art, for example, laser could be better and more close as the solution.
We do not put inside more details about punches and lasers because this is question to the manufacturers at first. Moreover, a lot of manufacturers today produce punching presses and lasers as well so there will be no real competition and you can get the detailed recommendation depends of your main requirements.