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Steel Cutting Blog

 

If you’re passionate about metal cutting or just keen to learn more, you’ve landed in the right place. 

 

For over 38 years, Amber Steel has been at the forefront of metal cutting services, specializing in laser cutting, flame cutting, and plasma cutting. Our expertise has carved a niche in this cutting-edge industry, delivering precision and excellence across industrial projects big and small. 

 

In our blog, we’ll share a mix of useful tips, innovative applications, our thoughts on sustainability in steel cutting, and more. Expect stories from the cutting floor, insights into how our processes can streamline projects across industries, and a few lessons we’ve learned along the way. 

 

While we keep some of our trade secrets under wraps, this blog is designed to offer valuable nuggets of wisdom that you simply won't find anywhere else. Whether you’re a professional in the industry or someone fascinated by the possibilities of metal cutting, you'll find something of value here. 

 

So, stick with us as we delve into the finer points of metal work. We’re glad to share our insights and lead discussions that matter to our industry. 

 

VIEW RECENT BLOGS

 

New to Steel Cutting? Start with the Basics 

 

Explore our Steel Cutting Blog by Topic 

 

Aerospace 

How precision metal cutting propels the aerospace industry, from constructing lighter frames to enhancing aerodynamics. 

 

Automotive 

The role of advanced metal cutting in automotive manufacturing, driving innovations in vehicle design and efficiency. 

 

Flame Cutting 

All about the robust and versatile process of flame cutting, ideal for tackling thicker metals with precision and ease. 

 

Furniture 

Discover the art of crafting metal furniture, where cutting techniques meet design to create both functional and aesthetic pieces. 

 

How It Works 

A behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics of metal cutting technologies and the science that makes them tick. 

 

Laser Cutting 

Laser cutting is where extreme precision meets efficiency, allowing for intricate designs and clean finishes. 

 

Medical Devices 

The critical role of precise steel cutting in developing reliable and intricate medical devices. 

 

Oil and Gas 

How steel cutting supports the oil and gas industry with components that withstand extreme environments and pressures. 

 

Plasma Cutting 

Known for its speed and versatility, plasma cutting slices through conductive metals with hot plasma. 

 

Safety 

Safety first! Tips and insights on maintaining a safe environment while handling powerful metal cutting equipment. 

 

Structural Steel Fabrication 

The backbone of construction, where steel fabrication and cutting technologies create frameworks that shape skylines. 

 

Sustainability 

A look at sustainability in metal cutting, focusing on practices that reduce waste and conserve energy to protect our planet. 

 

Maximizing Efficiency in Industrial Laser Cutting Operations

LVD laser machine with blue light

 

An inRiver report surveyed 200 manufacturing businesses across the US, UK, and Germany, and explored the competitive landscape of manufacturing. What did it find? Close to 87% of respondents shared they are facing more competition than a year ago.

 

Combine this with a growing shortage of workers, and the manufacturing sector is facing incredible challenges.

 

A Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute conducted a skills gap study in 2018, it revealed an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028. This could impact the economy by over 2 trillion dollars!

 

As we sit at the midpoint of that ten-year span, it is imperative for companies to find efficiencies, maximizing their technology, and take advantage of AI and automation in order keep their customer base happy.

 

In the world of industrial laser cutting operations, the margin for error is non-negotiable and the opportunities to improve efficiency are many.

 

In this blog post, we will be exploring some of the ways to improve efficiency in the laser cutting manufacturing sector and sharing how these changes will improve business productivity and profitability.

 

The Advantages of Laser Cutting

When optimally used, laser cutting is faster, has higher precision and lower operating costs. Let’s further explore some of its advantages:

 

  • Speed: Since laser cutting machines are automated, they produce more parts in less time, far surpassing the capability of traditional cutting methods. The results reduce lead times and increase efficiency.

  • Precision: Operated by computer software, laser cutters are programmed to cut materials within an acceptable accuracy range. Laser technology allows a focus of about 25 microns, roughly ¼ of the width of a strand of human hair. The cut width itself can be extremely small, slicing at less than 0.001 inches. The dimensional accuracy is also precise, at about ± 0.0005 inches.

  • Affordability: Compared to its traditional counterparts, laser cutting machines do not need as much maintenance and consume less energy. Both factors reduce operating costs and leave more money on the bottom line for profit.

  • Versatility: Laser cutters are versatile and can cut metal, plastics and composites, making them able to service a variety of industrial needs.

 

 

Ways to Improve Accuracy

Before we can improve efficiency, we must first improve accuracy. Although laser cutting is a very precise art, there are still several areas where it could use support. Below we explore a number of ways in which accuracy could be improved:

 

  • Specific Material: The smoother and thinner the material, the more exact a cut you can achieve. Each material will also have specific machine settings.

  • Smaller Size Laser: The size of the laser beam spot can impact precision. By using a smaller laser beam spot size accuracy will improve over wider spot sizes.

  • Higher Power: The more powerful the laser beam is, the better it will perform when cutting through thicker materials for flawless, even cuts.

  • Optimized Workbench: The positioning of the workpiece material on the bench can impact the cut. Workbenches that are not stable can have vibrations, making the process lose its reliability to the original design.

 

LVD laser machine with blue light zoomed in

 

Ways to Improve Efficiency

Now that we have learned ways to improve accuracy, we can focus on improving efficiency. An efficient manufacturing practice is a more focused, safe and profitable one. Here are some of the ways laser cutting can be used to improve efficiency in its manufacturing sector:

 

Reducing Time

Laser cutting is a two-part process: the actual cutting path and the separation path where the material is removed. The time consumed in the cutting path is the effective cutting time. The time used during the empty stroke or invalid path is called the invalid working time.

 

To improve cutting efficiency, the amount of time spent on the invalid path needs to be reduced, mainly by shortening the cutting path length. Different perforation methods will also help reduce the cutting process time.

 

Optimizing the cutting parameters will also decrease cutting time. Laser power and focal length both play a role here in addition to speed. The higher the laser power, the faster the cutting. The shorter the focal length, the more precise the cutting.


The materials you choose can also impact cutting time and efficiency. Some materials are more difficult to cut than others, increasing the time needed and therefore increasing operating costs. When cutting aluminum, you can achieve up to speeds of 5 m/min. While copper, is more difficult to cut, with cutting speeds of 2 m/min.

 

Finally, decreasing the cutting head lift will save cutting time and increase efficiency. By optimizing the cutting path of the cutting head or by using a micro-connection contour, you can remove the lifting motion of the cutting head. The laser will then move to the next cut position and capitalize on saved time.

 

Minimizing Waste

No matter the business, waste is inevitable.

 

Both traditional cutting methods and the laser cutting process produce material waste. That being said, when companies invest in nesting software, part placement is optimized, and less waste is created. The laser cutter needs to be programmed to take advantage of every part from a single sheet of material.

 

When working with regular shaped parts, nesting will use the borrowing edge and the common edge. This will shorten the cutting path, reduce the cutting time, and minimize waste. A good rule of thumb is to use 2 to 4 parts as a group to share the edge. This can lessen actual cutting by 30% and improve material use by 8%.

 

It is equally important to consider choosing the proper raw material plates suited to the specific job. Smaller plates or non-standard size plates may work more efficiently reducing the total material waste.

 

Reconfiguring For Better Workflow

Almost all manufacturing processes can benefit from the right setup. Whether it’s the workspace layout or communication practices amongst departments, improvements can be made to cut lead time and increase efficiency.

 

Take the time to analyze the workflow, identify bottlenecks and find wasted time in transit or waiting for further processing. Ensure incoming material is as nearest to the laser cutting machine and locate after-cutting processes as near as possible to the laser output.

 

Shop employees will have the most insights and input, as they are the ones in the thick of it. They are gold when it comes to improving efficiencies and fine-tuning processes. Utilize them and pick their brain for ways to become more efficient. Here are some sample questions they could be asked on a semi-regular basis.

 

  • Where do they think time is wasted?

  • How is production being slowed down?

  • Where can things be improved?


 

Utilizing automation and Artificial Intelligence

While not everyone is entirely impressed with the powers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the manufacturing industry could greatly benefit from it. Especially laser-cutting machines.

 

At the start of this blog post, we mentioned a labour shortage of 23 million workers in manufacturing jobs. In this situation, AI and automation could help, by collaborating with its human counterparts during laser cutting jobs to increase production and quality.

 

To prove our point, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) researchers used machine learning (artificial intelligence) to create a laser cutter than can tell the difference between 30 different types of materials and improve the overall efficiency of the cutter.

 

AI can also help with adjustments to reduce waste and provide guidance for specific materials. There are laser cutting products hitting the market that already include AI features. For instance, this product automatically makes cut adjustments in milliseconds by adjusting the feed rate. While it may not be commonplace yet, AI is increasingly improving the manufacturing process across many industries, and the manufacturing industry should not be sleeping on if increased efficiency is their goal.

 

Performing Preventative and Regular Maintenance

While laser cutting equipment generally has less maintenance requirements than some more traditional equipment, it still needs regular care and maintenance.

 

Regular maintenance will help prevent breakdowns, decrease downtime and keep the machine operating efficiently for longer. Daily inspections are a must for laser cutters to support proper performance. There are also important steps to take every six months or after 2,000 hours of use.

 

Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and be sure to perform regular inspections of all laser cutting equipment. 


 

Final Thoughts

Maximizing efficiency in industrial laser cutting is essential due to growing competition and a labor shortage.

 

Improving accuracy through material selection and optimizing laser parameters is crucial.

 

Efficiency can be enhanced by reducing cutting time, minimizing waste, reconfiguring workflows, and utilizing AI. Regular maintenance is vital for machine longevity and performance. Embracing these strategies empowers manufacturers to stay competitive and profitable in the market.

 

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Flame Cutting In Structural Steel Fabrication

Commercial building steel frame.

 

Steel fabrication is part of our industrial bedrock due to its strength, heat resistance, durability, and ease with which steel fabricates

 

It remains crucial in housing construction, bridge building, and making factories and other large structures ‒ foundational components of our society that will forever remain in high demand. Industries calling for steel fabrication are essential for the world to exist and function as we know it. And so is flame cutting ‒ one of the most important tools in structural steel fabrication today. 

 

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of structural steel fabrication in various industries today and the advantages of flame cutting in achieving precise structural steel joinery and connections. 

 

At Amber Steel, we specialize in laser, plasma and flame cutting, and have always been a "total source" service for the production of quality steel products. Quality is achieved by utilizing the right production technique for the right product. Our continual investment in equipment and technology enables us to offer clients many production alternatives to achieve exact product specifications and tolerances. If you’re interested in learning more about steel cutting or have a project in mind that you would need our expertise on, do not hesitate to reach out. We’re always one email or phone call away.   

 

 

Primary Use Cases for Structural Steel Fabrication 

Steel fabrication is utilized most in architectural engineering and construction.  

 

These industries are absolutely essential to a robust, thriving civilization. Unsurprisingly, given their importance, they’re also exceptionally challenging industries, placing strenuous expectations on those involved. 

 

Complex, demanding designs and final products calling for enough durability and integrity to withstand all conditions and environments means strong materials are of the utmost necessity. 

 

Various design methods and innovations have taken steel fabrication to the next level, including different manufacturing processes, such as cutting, grinding, blending, brazing, and welding. On that note, the primary topic of this blog will be flame cutting structural steel–but more on steel fabrication first. 

 

 

Where (And Why) Is Steel Fabrication Most Prevalent? 

Here’s a list of use cases where steel fabrication shines brightest: 

 

  • Steel fabrication offers streamlined construction, reliable strength, and low weight for high-rise buildings

  • It creates large spaces cost-efficiently, making it an ideal fit for industrial buildings

  • Warehouses benefit from steel fabrication due to the reduced prices required to construct vaster spaces

  • Light gauge steel construction is a technique that optimizes the making of residential buildings

  • Steel fabrication meshes well with temporary structures since it lends itself to easy setup and removal processes. 

 

Steel fabrication offers the following construction-based benefits: 

 

  • Fabricating steel offers a structurally sound method that can be manufactured to strict tolerances and specifications

  • Excess material can be 100% recycled and is energy efficient

  • There are no concerns about steel warping, buckling, bending, or twisting, making it straightforward for modifications. 

  • Price fluctuations are rare, providing optimal cost-efficiency. You know what you’ll be paying, and it’s affordable. 

  • It improves construction quality while reducing the required maintenance

 

Steel fabrication’s environmental and social benefits are worth further shedding light on. The durability of steel and its reusability can’t be understated. More to the point, continued recycling won’t affect its most beneficial characteristics.  

 

Combining steel fabrication with other enhancements will also vastly enhance the energy efficiency of a building. 

 

 

How Can You Optimize Steel Fabrication? 

Processes and materials of great importance – the crucial, foundational elements of industry, society, and our economy – can’t have discernable weaknesses. We can’t afford our businesses, homes, and infrastructures to contain structural discrepancies. 

 

Thus, steel fabrication must be executed optimally. It must provide the robust, sturdy backbone we’ve come to rely upon and be sustainable and cost-efficient. Fine-tuned processes are of the topmost priority. Too much is on the line for anything less than the best materials. 

 

Flame cutting machine close up

 

One such approach is flame cutting fabrication. We’ll describe this process below and analyze its role in precise joinery and connections. 

 

 

What Is Flame Cutting? 

Generally speaking, flame cutting is a preferred solution throughout the equipment construction process. It’s also relied upon by machine shops far and wide.  

 

This cutting method combines propane and oxygen, producing a controlled flame on carbon steel plating. 

 

flame cutting is used interchangeably with the term “oxy-fuel cutting.” It shapes and separates steel components. Outer rings of torch-nozzle jets pre-heat the steel’s surface. Meanwhile, a central jet directs another oxygen stream to the targeted cutting area.  

 

Rapid steel oxidation occurs, removing materials due to the gas-related pressure.  

 

Mechanized methods are used for steel cutting, which involves the torch being mounted on a machine. Manual approaches are also still applied by many in the industry, entailing an operator to hold and guide the torch. 

 

flame cutting makes it possible to cut complex shapes. Also, computer technology can be integrated into cutting machines to offset material waste. In some instances, multi-cutting head machines are applied for high-volume production.  

 

Amber Steel possesses two Oxy-Fuel machines, each boasting up to eight burning stations, offering efficiency and streamlining speed. This makes us the ideal choice for flame cutting fabrication for anything between one-offs to thousands of profiles. 

 

 

The Advantages Of Flame Cutting Structural Steel 

Below is a list of advantages reaped from flame cutting fabrication: 

 

  • Flame cutting structural steel can’t be matched in the realms of precision, specifically regarding thick steel. Flame cutting can precisely cut through steel materials of up to 270mm. That’s unprecedented and unparalleled. 

    • Projects calling for exact dimensions and intricate designs benefit tremendously from this precision. 

    • Thick steel maintains its integrity when flame cut and ensures each cut adheres to–and even exceeds–rigorous quality standards. 

  • Flame cutting and cost-efficiency go hand in hand, no more evident than with thick steel in large volumes. 

    • Material wastage and operational costs are vastly reduced due to flame cutting fabrication and its ability to handle vast quantities and extensive sheets. 

    • With flame cutting, you’ll stay within your budgetary constraints while optimizing production
       

  • With flame cutting fabrication, thick steel is cut fast without sacrificing quality–a stark difference from other methods. 

    • Flame cutting is ideal for projects with demanding deadlines, helping keep companies on time despite any possible scheduling challenges. 

  • Any company aiming to diversify its offerings or approaches has a valuable tool in flame cutting.  

    • Flame cutting will deftly yield complex–or straightforward–shapes, its applications ranging from precision engineering (e.g., shipbuilding and aerospace) to heavy construction.  
       

  • A high-quality surface is a trademark of flame cutting, typically yielding a smooth finish that suits almost all applications.  

    • Flame cutting thicker steel might lead to surface imperfections, but further treatments can seamlessly remedy these.  

  • Flame cutting industry advancements in technology have garnered more environmentally friendly machinery and approaches.  

    • Modern flame cutting fabrication increases energy efficiency, reduces emissions, and has established a reputation for sustainability in steel processing. 
       

  • Flame cutting technology continues to advance and grow more capable in how efficiently it cuts through thick steel. Computer-controlled cutting systems improve speed and precision. 

    • Such advancements enable tighter tolerances and more nuanced designs, making flame cutting an increasingly better fit for complicated applications. 
       

  • When flame cutting fabrication is involved, there can be flexibility and customization in design. Simple and complex geometrical shapes can be easily formed, meeting project requirements, no matter how unique. 

    • Highly customized projects stand to benefit significantly from flame cutting fabrication. 
       

  • Flame cutting gets the job done with a vast range of steels, from carbon to mild and mild alloy. 

    • Thus, flame cutting is suitable for many projects and a diverse option for many forms of steel fabrication. 
       

  • A highly skilled workforce and flame cutting fabrication go hand in hand. Flame-cutters have vast expertise, ensuring the utmost precision and care goes into each job, ensuring top-tier outcomes. 

 

 

Joinery, Connections, and Flame Cutting Fabrication 

Joinery has a crucial role in assembling different components together in a structurally sound and visually pleasing fashion. It’s an essential part of executing top-tier work.  

 

Through joinery, you clear out clutter, simplify the aesthetics of an interior design, and benefit from seamless two-material transitions.  

 

It’s all about robustness and sturdiness, ensuring an exceptional finished product that stands the test of time. 

 

Without precision and exactingness in handiwork, the joinery quality dwindles, as does the overall quality of the finished product. 

 

As we’ve discussed, flame cutting and precision are almost synonyms. They’re one and the same (when performed by an expert specialist with optimal equipment.) The work, including its impact joinery and connections, upholds the standards, delivering products that look good and have reliable, foundational bones that will never fail.  

 

 

Finding the Right Flame Cutting Fabrication Company For Your Needs 

You’ll encounter flame cutting fabrication professionals throughout Southwestern Ontario. Some of them are excellent at what they do – in fact, most of them are. It’s an industry that attracts skilled people with attention to detail. 

 

Worker operating a flame cutting machine.

 

So, what separates Amber Steel from the pack? What do you get from us when you invest in our flame cutting fabrication services that you wouldn’t get from a company offering similar services? 

 

Yes, we continually invest in cutting-edge technology and tools for the best results. Yes, we apply the correct approach to the appropriate product. Yes, our workforce is dedicated and passionate about what they do. 

 

These are all highly desirable characteristics – but they’re not the entirety of our differentiating factors.  

 

Instead, combining these traits with our commitment to customer satisfaction sets us apart. 

 

When you partner with Amber Steel, you’re getting someone on your side who wants what’s best for you. When you thrive, we thrive. Our desire to fabricate steels that drive business growth for you makes us stand out from our competitors.  

 

Amber finds every possible angle to give you an advantage when you work with us. It’s not about cashing a cheque. It’s about delivering the appropriate, most profitable solutions for your business’s needs. 

 

As much as steel fabrication impacts the bedrock of our society, our expertise and passion can be the bedrock for your business success.  

 

Want to learn more about how our flame cutting fabrication services can make a big-picture impact on your company? Reach out to us today with your inquiries. 

 

We look forward to learning about your business, its strategies, and its needs surrounding flame cutting structural steel.  

 

 

 

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