The industrial machinery sector may not be the first sector that many people think of when they consider advances in technology, and the use of state of the art equipment, but the argument of whether laser or plasma cutting is best, and the development of robot and 3D vision within industrial machines is cutting edge stuff. The days of computer aided machinery have evolved, with computers making calculations on the fly, lasers cutting through sheet metal, and automated machinery that accurately transports work from one stage in the process to the next.

From the latest sheet metal bending rolls from Clarence Jones to fully integrated and automated CNC systems, industrial machinery is at the edge of technological advances.

Plasma cutting is nothing new. It was first developed in the 1950s, in fact, as an alternative for cutting materials that were too stubborn to be cut with traditional flame cutting and other cutting methods. An arc of gas is super-heated, and the material is then passed through the arc, cutting virtually all thicknesses and types of metal.

Although laser cutting was introduced a decade or so later, it will not cope with cutting the same thickness of metals as plasma cutting will. As such, it is more commonly used for cutting thin sheet metal and, in these instances, it is more precise and more cost effective than plasma. Whereas plasma cutters have a relatively large hot zone, lasers do not, and this means that there is also less chance for the warping of materials.

Robots have also been in use for decades, although the more recent innovations are far more advanced than their earlier predecessors. Robots are preferred to human operators because they can work consistently without making mistakes, they can work in challenging environmental conditions, and they can be programmed and updated as and when required, which is much quicker than training staff.

CNC, or Computer Numerical Control, devices are used to measure, mark, and accurately direct the machinery and robots that are used. Apart from human error, the risk of mistakes is virtually nil, and extremely precise measurements can be used to achieve some of the most accurate measurements. When industrial companies want to ensure that the parts they manufacture are as accurate and reliable as possible, for example in aeronautic design, they will usually rely on these CNC systems combined with accurate laser cutting, or plasma cutting for thick metal material, and the use of robotic machinery and 3D field of vision systems.