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Finding the Right Profiling Technique for your Manufacturing Process

There are numerous ways to cut steel and other metals, each of which involves different techniques and offers various advantages and disadvantages. Steel profile manufacturers should choose the right profiling technique for their processes, which sometimes is easier said than done.

Take a quick look at the different techniques and find out what they have to offer.

Choosing the right profiling technique

The advantages and disadvantages of each technique that you can use in manufacturing steel profiles make them better suited for particular applications. Familiarise yourself with these factors so you can choose the right profiling techniques for your processes.

Gas Cutting
  • Also known as oxyfuel cutting.
  • A pressurised oxygen torch heats the metal to the melting point, allowing it to be cut away with an acetylene torch.
  • This method is quick, easy, straightforward, relatively inexpensive, and versatile enough to be used on various metals.
  • Gas cutting isn’t accurate, so flame-cut steel often has rough edges.
  • Gas cutting is more suitable for jobs where precision isn’t essential.
Plasma Cutting
  • Much more precise than gas cutting.
  • Plasma cutting uses a high-voltage arc between a nozzle and an electrode to generate an electrically conductive plasma channel.
  • A stream of pressurised gas such as argon or nitrogen passes through the channel, resulting in a plasma stream hot enough to melt metal quickly and cleanly without producing slag or burrs on the finished product.
  • Plasma-cut steel is known for precise cuts with smooth edges, making it an excellent choice for tube or sheet metal fabrication.
  • This steel profile manufacturer cutting technique is suitable for thicker materials.
  • It generates less heat than gas cutting, so it’s ideal for cutting sensitive materials such as electronics.
  • More expensive than gas cutting.
Laser Cutting
  • Laser cutting is a good choice if you need to manufacture thin steel profiles with accurate cuts quickly.
  • Not suitable for advanced geometry cuts such as bevels and contours.
  • The cutting process focuses high-intensity light beams that can melt cutlines in thin metals that aren’t reflective.
  • The heat generated by laser cutting creates a Heat Affected Zone.
  • You can use laser cutting on metals that have a thickness between 1½ - 2 inches, although you may need to use a secondary technique for a good finish.
Cold Sawing
  • In cold sawing, a circular blade is used to cut metal while transferring generated heat to the chips that are created by the blade.
  • You can use either solid high-speed steel (HSS) or tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) blades turning at low RPMs in your steel profile manufacturer processes.
  • These blades cut quickly without generating excessive friction and heat, making them resistant to premature wear that could affect the cut parts’ finish.
  • Blades can be resharpened and reused many times before they need to be replaced.
  • Cold sawing is a cost-effective technique for high-speed cutting and good-quality finishes, especially when you want to manufacture extrusions, rods, and tubes.
  • Not suitable for shorter lengths of steel, and the blades can be brittle and subject to shock.
Water Jet Cutting
  • Water jet cutting or water cutting is an environmentally friendly steel profile manufacturing technique.
  • A computer-controlled device delivers a jet of water at an ultra-high pressure, usually between 60k – 90k, to a cutting head where an abrasive mixture is added.
  • This technique doesn’t create a Heat Affected Zone, and it offers incredible accuracy and high finish levels.
  • Steel profile manufacturers can use this technique on all steel grades, including Inconel, Stainless, and Titanium, as well as specialty alloys.
  • Water jet cutting can be used to cut material thicknesses ranging from six inches on stainless steel to 20 inches on aluminium blocks.
  • 5-axis cutting is available for bevels and complex geometric shapes.
Saw Cutting
  • This steel profile-cutting technique uses a saw blade to cut metal.
  • Also known as blade cutting.
  • Two main techniques: circular blade cutting and band saw cutting.
  • Circular blade cutting uses circular saw blades.
  • Band saw cutting uses an extended straight blade for continuous, consistent cutting.
  • This technique allows cutting with a small tolerance and reduces wastage.
  • Saw cutting offers high cut quality and fast production rates without the need for finishing treatments.
  • Suitable for stainless steel, titanium, nickel alloys, high-temperature alloys, aluminium, brass, bronze, and copper.
  • You can use saw cutting to produce bar, plate, pipe, and tube shapes.
Mitre Cutting
  • Mitre cutting is usually associated with woodwork, but some steel profile manufacturers use this technique.
  • Mitre cutting uses a mitre saw, which is fitted with a circular blade, to make precise cuts at different angles, usually with a laser guide.
  • The saw holds the steel securely in place while the circular blade moves up and down.
  • Two main types of mitre saws: compound and sliding.
  • Compound saws: Able to make vertical and horizontal cuts.
  • Sliding saws: Able to make horizontal cuts only, and they are preferred for precision and accuracy.
  • Only use blades designed for metal cutting when cutting steel with a mitre saw.
  • Bevelling is a steel profile-cutting process that prepares steel for welding.
  • This process can help strengthen welded joints considerably.
  • Bevelling is ideal for heavy-duty machinery and equipment made for agriculture, construction, forestry, mining, and shipping.
  • Common bevel cuts:
    • Top bevel: resembles a wedge shape, with the bottom of the cut being longer than the top.
    • Bottom bevel: also resembles a wedge shape, with the bottom of the cut being shorter than the top.
    • Top bevel with a land: the top of the cut is at an outward sloping angle. The cut is squared-off midway through the plate.
    • Bottom bevel with a land: the bottom of the cut is at an inward-sloping angle. The top of the steel is squared-off.
    • X bevel: resembles the left side of the letter X when cut in half.
  • Shearing or Guillotining is a steel profile cutting method that uses a moving upper blade and a stationary lower blade.
  • The blades are slightly offset from one another.
  • The upper blade descends and pushes the steel down on the lower blade.
  • The pressure deforms the metal, causing it to strain and give way, forming the cut.
  • This cutting method is versatile, and you can also use the machine to bend, press, and punch materials.
  • This method is almost entirely waste-free.
  • Shearing/Guillotining is most suitable for plate and sheet materials such as aluminium, brass, bronze, copper, nickel, stainless steel, and titanium.
Full CNC CAD/CAM Programming
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining creates steel profiles by removing material from a block of raw material.
  • The process starts with a CAD model (blueprint) which is converted to an instruction set known as G-code.
  • This code controls the cutting tool’s movements and the cut speed and depth.
  • A CNC machine is a computer-controlled device used to create or modify parts made from metal or other materials.
  • After cutting, the material may require a finishing process such as surface coating or heat
  • treatment.
  • Steel profile manufacturers can use this versatile process to create a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • The process includes the following steps: programming, setup/mounting, cutting/machining, and finishing.
  • CAM programming is more advanced than CNC programming.
  • The programmer creates a computer model of the part to be cut before the software automatically generates the necessary code.
  • This is the fastest, most efficient form of CNC programming.
Stitch Cutting
  • Stitch cutting resembles stitches in fabric.
  • This steel profile-cutting technique makes it easier to bend parts in places that are normally difficult to reach.
  • You can use this technique to easily cut parts of steel that share a common edge.

Choose the right profiling technique with SPS

Choosing the right steel profile-cutting technique is essential if you want to do the job the right way the first time. Depending on the job’s requirements, this could lead to significant expenditure or other difficulties on your part. Make this easier by choosing SPS for your steel profile and processing needs.

Posted by Killian Ward
21st June 2023

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