Laser cutting is a metal fabrication process that perfectly combines form and function. This high-tech process can cut many types of steel, but can it cut Australia’s very own Colorbond? This article explores whether you can use lasers on this unique material to create intricate designs.
Yes, you can laser cut Colorbond steel safely. However, it is not necessarily the best choice for laser cut panels and decorative pieces, as Colorbond sheets are relatively thin. There are other more viable alternatives to Colorbond steel for laser cut panels.
Colorbond steel was created with Australia’s harsh conditions in mind, so it does stand up to the weather when used for outdoor metal art and decorative screens. Colorbond can be laser cut using custom metal art designs, but must not have too much cut out of it, or the end result will be flimsy.
Find out more about the viability of laser cutting Colorbond steel in this article.
What Is Colorbond Steel?
Colorbond is a type of steel that meets the Australian AS1397 Roofing Standard. It has an anti-corrosive and heat-proof coating that can resist peeling, chipping, and cracking. These characteristics make it a perfect material for roofs, fences, and outdoor panels.
Unlike other steel, Colorbond boasts a five-layered design that is one-of-a-kind within the industry. Using a final coating of BlueScope metal, Colorbond steel is uniquely qualified and able to withstand the harsh Australian climate. The new Activate® technology makes Colorbond even more resistant to corrosion when cut, drilled or scratched.
Another great benefit of Colorbond is that it’s available in a vast range of colours, allowing property owners to customise the look of their home or business. Colorbond sheets are available in 22 contemporary, classic and matt finish options, and Australians love the stylish look of Colorbond steel combined with a durable and weather-proof product.
Can You Laser Cut Colorbond?
Yes, Colorbond steel as a material is suitable for laser cutting. However, it is not the recommended choice for laser cut panels and other outdoor metal art pieces, as it is only 0.5mm thick. Laser cut Colorbond panels would require extra support and minimal cut-outs to be a practical option.
Laser cutting is a specialised metal fabrication process designed to create precise and intricate designs from a large sheet of metal. It uses computer automation to achieve an outstanding level of accuracy, and a carefully controlled laser to create clean and precise cuts on an array of steel types.
Unlike some materials, Colorbond steel can be safely cut with a laser, without the risk of creating hazardous fumes or damaging the metal.
Colorbond steel boasts high strength and durability, but these qualities are easily compromised if an intricate design is cut into the sheet. For this reason, Colorbond steel is more often fabricated into practical components such as flashings, roof ducts, pipe covers, and other domestic or industrial products.
Better alternatives to Colorbond for metal art, decorative screens and fence toppers include corten steel, mild steel, and aluminium with your choice of finishing process. Powder coated sheet metal can achieve a similar look to laser cut Colorbond while giving you a more sturdy finished product.
What Is Laser Cut Colorbond Steel Used For?
While not ideal due to its thickness of only 0.5mm, laser-cut Colorbond steel can be used for:
Outdoor Screen Panels – Outdoor screen panels are mainly used to hide something in the garden area like rubbish bins, garden taps, or hose reels. They can transform your space by acting as a backdrop or a focal point in your area.
Laser cut Colorbond can be used for privacy screens, particularly in densely populated areas. While you can achieve this with the use of a plain panel, laser-cut ones can also provide you with some cool breeze and natural light.
Gates – Colorbond can be used for driveways and sliding gates that can serve as a stylish entryway to your home. Since it’s made from sturdy Colorbond metal, safety and functionality are virtually guaranteed, but laser cutting may compromise stability.
Fence Panels and Infills – Who says fences have to be boring? Using laser-cut steel for your fences and infills is a classy way to maintain the privacy of your home. However, Colorbond is not ideal for intricate laser cutting, so a plain Colorbond fence is typically a better option. Room Dividers – You can create separate zones in your rooms with trendy laser-cut steel dividers. Not only are they functional, but they are also aesthetically pleasing as well. Colorbond steel will need a lot of support when laser cut, however, so powder-coated mild steel or aluminium is a better alternative for decorative applications.
What Designs Can Be Laser Cut Into Colorbond?
Laser cutting can typically be used to create complex and intricate designs in sheet metal. However, the thinness of Colorbond steel means it isn’t suitable for complex and intricate designs, as this will compromise the stability of the metal.
Using Colorbond as a material ensures you will have a strong and durable fence, panel, or roofing material. For that reason, it’s best to choose an alternative sheet metal product for metal art and decorative laser cut panels.
Advantages Of Laser Cutting Colorbond
Laser cutting’s popularity as a metal fabrication method is always increasing. Some of the many benefits of laser cutting include:
- Laser cutting Colorbond steel allows you to get intricate and precise cuts. It can efficiently produce customized designs without damaging the metal sheet.
- Laser cutting machines do not use mechanical force to penetrate steel, unlike stamping machines. It prevents stress marks and microscopic fractures that can weaken the material.
- Unlike bending machines or press brakes, laser cutting machines don’t need to come in contact with the metal. Since it doesn’t use force, there is less wear and tear for the machine, meaning more cost savings for the workshop and the client.
- Laser cutting produces a smooth and shiny surface on Colorbond steel. You don’t need to worry about burrs or rough edges that might be a safety hazard.
- Since laser-cut Colorbond sheets come out smooth and flawless, there will be no need to go over it again just to remove sharp edges. When a step is eliminated, the manufacturing process becomes faster, simpler, and more cost-efficient.
- Since laser cutting Colorbond is controlled by computers, you are guaranteed precision and efficiency while saving time.
Is Laser Cutting Colorbond Steel Expensive?
The pricing of laser cutting Colorbond depends on the complexity of the project and the size of the material to be cut. The cost is also based on how long the laser cutting process will take.
The laser needs to pass through every line at the right speed to achieve the desired design. The process on thicker and denser materials takes more time than on lighter metal sheets, so they are more expensive to carry out.
What Materials Can’t Be Laser Cut?
There are some materials that are not safe for laser cutting. One example is Polyvinyl Chloride, more commonly known as PVC. It emits pure chlorine gas when cut so it can ruin the machine’s motion control system and fibre-optics.
Other materials can’t be laser cut because they can either catch fire or emit toxic fumes. These include polystyrene foam, HDPE plastic, polypropylene foam, coated carbon fibre, and fibreglass.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Kanyana Engineering does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. Always seek specific advice on your metal fabrication project to ensure all variables are taken into consideration.
Graham Dawe is the Managing Director and Works Manager of Kanyana Engineering. With decades of experience in the metal fabrication industry, he is dedicated to keeping Kanyana at the forefront of the sector’s technological growth. Looking beyond the process itself to holistic, integrated CAD, CAM and MRP solutions, Graham believes Australian manufacturing has an enduring place on the global stage. In Kanyana Engineering’s state-of-the-art workshop in Mandurah, WA, Graham delivers an exceptional standard of work for commercial, industrial and government clients alike.