In the right application, a concentrated beam of light can do much of what a mechanical cutting tool can do, only better. Under no physical pressure during the machining process, laser-cut metal is precisely defined and clean, and beams can be focused to extremely narrow spot sizes for tiny features and tight corners. Even beyond the lack of chatter-inducing vibration, laser-cutting tends to be faster than mechanical machining as well as noncontact processes like electronic discharge machining (EDM). Altogether, these and other characteristics make the process particularly useful for delicate, high-precision work, particularly surgical tools and implants.
This isn’t to suggest that laser cutting is always the best option for every feature of a typical medical part. That said, mounting one to a precise, flexible, high-production machine tool (say, a bar-fed Swiss-type lathe) can enable producing much of this work rapidly, in high volumes and from a single setup. That’s precisely the idea behind machinery like LaserSwiss line from Tsugami/Rem sales, says Graham Noake, vice president. What the supplier did not expect was the level of interest from manufacturers that have never before purchased a production metal-cutting machine.