Laser or CNC?

At Trade CNC we offer both CNC machining and laser cutting services, but which process is best for your project?

There are advantages and limitations with both processes, so the answer really depends on your project.  First, you need to consider some simple questions:
  1. What material do you want to use?

    Certain plastics cannot be laser cut as they release toxic gases. CNC machines can cut larger and thicker sheets of material, while laser cutting is better for very light or thin material as it doesn’t move the material whilst cutting.
  2. How do you want the finished edges to look?

    CNC machine cut acrylic will need edge polishing to achieve the same finish as laser cut acrylic. Laser cut timber products will have a scorched edge where the laser has burnt through the material.
  3. How intricate is the design?

    While the cuts made by a CNC machine can only be as accurate as the diameter of the tool, a laser beam can be focussed to 0.025mm, so for small, accurate work, a laser may be the best option.
  4. Do you need a shaped profile?

    Our CNC machine uses a range of different tools to achieve your required result. For example, a moulded skirting board would be cut using a specially shaped tool for the shaped profile.  Lasers travel in straight lines, so can only create cuts perpendicular to the surface of the material.As you can see, different projects are best suited to different cutting techniques

    Laser Cutting

    • Laser cutting components in MDFVery accurate
    • No machining marks
    • Small heat affected zone
    We can laser cut plastics and wood up to 20mm thick and sheet size up to 1200mm x 900mm, and other materials such as fabrics. Because the cutting area is so small, this minimises the heat affected zone, which reduces any risk of warping the material. With internal corners, a CNC drill bit will leave a slightly curved corner, due to the radius of the tool, while laser cutting can produce an internal angled corner.  

    CNC Machining

    • iPad surround machined by TradeCNCShorter running time
    • No toxic gases
    • No scorch marks on cuts
      Our CNC machines can take sheets up to 3550 x 1550mm and up to 100mm thick.  Once the machine is programmed it can cut at a speed of 96m/min, so we can make short work of high volume production runs. CNC machines can cut with various shaped tools, so you can get a range of rebated and moulded cut shapes.  A quick internet search for 3D CNC cutting will show the huge range of beautiful and complex designs possible using CNC milling.   Because we offer both CNC machining and laser cutting, there is always the option to combine both methods in one project, taking advantage of the benefits of both processes to get exactly the finish you require.  If you are still unsure, then give our technical department a call – they will be only too happy to talk you through your options and help you come to an informed decision.
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