Pure aluminum is soft and ductile and most commercial uses require greater strength than pure aluminum affords. So, strength is achieved by the addition of other elements to produce alloys. Further strengthening is possible by means which classify the alloys into roughly two categories, non-heat-treatable (alloyed with manganese, silicon, iron, and magnesium) and heat-treatable (alloyed with copper, magnesium, zinc, and silicon).
Aluminum is available in a wide variety of alloys to meet specific applications. Here we focus on two types of aluminum alloys that are uses mostly for laser cutting applications:
In general, aluminum is lightweight and offers moderate strength, as well as good corrosion resistance, formability, and machinability, especially when compared to steel.
Aluminum typically melts at a lower temperature than steel; its capacity for conducting heat and electricity is about two-thirds that of copper.
Steel sheet is commonly categorized as either "hot rolled" or "cold rolled" and by varying the amount of carbon, the manufacturer can produce a wide range of material characteristics. Tool steels have a much higher carbon content than the mild steels used in sheet metal work.
The hot rolling process is generally less expensive, but results in a surface slag that is not always acceptable. Pickled and Oiled Hot Roll Steel has had most of the mill oxide removed and has a better surface appearance.
Cold-rolled steel is commonly used in precision sheet metal applications due to its excellent surface condition, material consistency, and accuracy in thickness.
One main advantage of steel over aluminum is the ease of resistance spot welding.
Steel also has a lower cost per pound than aluminum, although adding corrosion protection (plating and painting) may consume a great deal of the cost savings over aluminum.
Steel sheet is available in a wide range of pre-finished products, including galvanized, paint primered, and fully painted. Laser Alliance LLC, however, mostly laser-cuts bare steel sheets and plates.
Why Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel does rust over time, but in a minuscule amount compared to steel sheet. This is accomplished by alloying elements like nickel to reduce the amount of iron exposed on the surface. There are over 150 grades of stainless steel, of which fifteen are most common. The AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute) defines the following grades among others:
Although there is a variety of stainless steel alloys. We focus on one alloy that is commonly used in laser cutting applications.
Type 304 is the most widely used of the stainless steel because it has:
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