Laser cutting is a processing technique with which sheet materials are cut into the correct shape by means of a laser. Laser is the abbreviation of the English term “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. With laser cutting, a laser cut is made by moving a high-power laser beam over the material. The light waves from the laser move with their peaks aligned, or in phase. Therefore, laser beams are very narrow, very bright, and can be focused to a very small point. Because laser light stays focused and does not fan out much (like a flashlight would), laser beams can travel great distances and make very precise laser cuts. The energy of the laser causes the material to evaporate.
The cut that a laser makes in a sheet material is narrow, of the order of 0.2 mm. You can start and end a cut at any desired point and use the laser beam to travel any desired path across the plate. This means there is virtually no limitation to the shapes and patterns you can laser cut.
What makes laser cutting such a wonderful processing technique?
Laser cutters can cut complex shapes. The freedom of shape of laser cutters is very great. You can make a drawing yourself of what needs to be cut; almost any CAD or vector editing program, such as AutoCAD, Illustrator, Solidworks, Fusion 360, etc., is suitable for this. This is a major advantage over more traditional machining techniques such as turning or milling. These techniques require an intermediate step between drawing and machine. This requires separate software (CAM - computer aided manufacturing) that converts the drawing into machine paths. This requires manual work from a well-trained work planner. With laser there is (almost) no CAM intermediate step required, which means that the start-up costs are much lower than with milling and turning. These machines also use tools (milling cutter and chisel respectively) that are subject to wear. Laser cutting does not have this.
The cut that a laser cutter makes is very precise and narrow. A laser can start cutting at any point on the material. This allows efficient use of the surface of the material and virtually no material loss.
With laser cutting, no mechanical stress is exerted on the material, which means that the laser cutter can cut fragile or brittle material and therefore create fragile details in parts. In many cases, no or only minimal post-processing is required.
The speed at which work is done is another important advantage of laser cutting. Within just a few minutes, a complex shape can be cut from the material using a laser cutter.
Laser cutting is possible in many different materials. We laser cut wood, plastics, textiles, paper and cardboard. These different materials are cut with the same laser cutter. Unlike more traditional machining techniques, different cutting tools do not need to be used for different materials.
The high repeatability makes it possible to make consistent and high-quality parts. This makes it possible to produce in series. At Snijlab we have developed a separate laser cutter for this purpose, which allows us to produce these series without manual loading and unloading.
In short, laser cutting is very versatile, fast and sustainable.
For which materials is laser cutting suitable?
We laser cut wood, plastics, textiles, paper and cardboard.
We have carefully put together a versatile range of these materials that are suitable for laser cutters. With us you will find materials for various applications, from prototyping to end products and from model construction to machine construction. All our materials are selected for consistently high quality and applicability.
We are enthusiastic about one of our recent acquisitions: black POM (Polyacetal or Delrin). This sheet material is so strong that it can replace metal parts, but then cut at the speed of Snijlab. We are also very proud of our birch plywood, which is made especially for Snijlab from Finnish wood from sustainable forestry. The bonding is tailored to laser cutting, making the edges beautiful light brown and soot-free.
What is laser cutting used for?
Models / Prototypes
Laser cutting is done on the basis of a supplied digital drawing. The laser cutter cuts the lines from the material exactly as shown on the drawing. This means no conversion between drawing and machine is necessary. This makes laser cutting extremely suitable for making just one or a few pieces of the desired product. Changes can be made quickly if it turns out that the result is not quite as expected. A change to the drawing is quickly made and the laser cutter can be put back to work.
What is unique about Snijlab's laser cutting is that we also produce large volumes. We have developed a special laser cutter for this purpose. With this laser cutter, the sheets of material no longer have to be placed in the machine manually, but this is done automatically. In this way, laser cutting is ideal for producing large quantities of parts where precision and accuracy are of great importance.
The cutting quality of this machine is also much better than regular machines, meaning that parts have virtually no spots or smoke deposits, which is the case with all lasers on the market. Plastics can therefore be cut and delivered without protective film. This foil does not have to be removed from the (thousands of) parts (double-sided) later. And wood no longer needs to be sanded clean. This smoke- and spot-free cutting saves a huge amount of time during finishing and makes the difference, meaning that laser cutting at Snijlab offers possibilities that other players in the market do not offer.
How much does laser cutting cost?
The price is calculated automatically as soon as you upload a drawing via our website. The price of a laser-cut part depends on a number of things:
Start-up costs are charged for each product. If you order more than one copy, the start-up costs are spread and the unit price drops. If you order different products made from the same material, you pay lower start-up costs for each subsequent product.
You can have a single piece of a unique part for just €20, a large collector's plate made of a valuable material can cost more than €100 and you can have a small part in a series laser cut for just €0.10, for example.
Why laser cutting at Snijlab?
In the world of laser cutting of plastics and wood, models and prototypes are mainly produced. It is widely believed that laser cutting of these materials is not scalable. At Snijlab we believe that laser cutting, in combination with the right automation, is very suitable for producing custom parts at competitive prices in Europe. Automated laser cutting is cheaper and faster than 3D printing and milling, and often more flexible than injection molding.
As a result, engineering and design companies do not have to seek refuge in production companies in low-wage countries, with all the difficulties that entails. There is also no need to order in large volumes when they need something custom. You can simply start with small volumes and then easily scale up your production as desired.
This gives you the design freedom and innovative power that is normally only possible in larger, established companies, with the flexibility and efficiency of a startup.
Creativity is central at Snijlab. We believe it is important that engineers and designers can use their full creative potential without being hindered by scale problems. At Snijlab they have the freedom to have models and prototypes laser cut as desired, but also to scale up to larger quantities when appropriate. This prevents overproduction and prevents surpluses.
Last but not least, we think it is very important to act environmentally consciously. We make it a point every day to make our footprint as limited as possible. We investigate the environmental impact of all materials we use.
We know what the end of their lifespan looks like, how the materials can be recycled. We explicitly share this knowledge with our customers, so that they can take this into account in their choices. The roof of our factory is full of solar panels that provide our machines with power. When purchasing, we strive for the shortest possible transport routes.
We separate the waste flows from our materials. Our wish is to be able to recycle each material type separately and we are actively working on developing these options. Our wood comes from sustainably managed forests. We are FSC certified ourselves to maintain the Chain of Custody where possible.
We already offer acrylics that are completely recycled .