There are various ways of separating materials, including mechanical methods such as sheering and thermal methods such as oxy-fuel, plasma and laser cutting

Thermal cutting

In the case of oxy-fuel, plasma and laser cutting, thermal energy is used to anneal materials up to ignition, melting or evaporation temperatures.

Oxy-fuel cutting and laser-cutting with oxygen use the exothermic energy of the oxygen reaction in the process. 

Flame and laser beam anneal material 'only' up to ignition temperature: the oxygen jet burns the material and blows out melt and slag.

The cutting speed depends on the purity of the oxygen and the shape of the cutting gas jet.  High purity oxygen, optimised nozzle design and suitable gas supply all contribute towards increased productivity.

Plasma cutting

In plasma cutting and laser cutting with nitrogen, the material is annealed up to melting temperatures and the cutting gas blows out the melt.

Laser cutting

Lasers can also be used to evaporate materials such as wood or plastics. Evaporation of metallic material is used, for example, in laser drilling or piercing of the starting hole.

Gases suppress ignition of flammable materials and they support material removal during drilling and piercing.