The process of laser cutting flat sheet material uses a machine that sends a laser beam through the material that cuts using heat. Once the subject of science fiction stories, laser machining is becoming more and more prevalent in industrial applications as laser cutting machined are becoming more affordable.
In sheet metal laser cutting, there are several factors which affect the type of laser that is used in different applications. The type of metal can greatly affect the thickness and intensity of the laser beam used because certain metals like aluminum can conduct heat away from the laser, making laser cutting less efficient. For thicker sheet metal, laser cutting machines sometimes use a method called reactive cutting to efficiently cut hard or thick metal. Pulsing lasers can also cut precise holes in sheet metal.