In the case of oxyfuel, plasma and laser cutting, thermal energy is used to heat materials up to ignition, melting or evaporation temperatures.
Flame cutting and laser cutting with oxygen use the exothermic energy of the oxygen reaction in the process. Flame and laser beam heat material only until ignition temperature is reached. The oxygen jet combusts 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 means high productivity.
In plasma cutting and laser cutting with nitrogen, the material is heated up to melting temperatures and the cutting gas blows out the melt. The choice of cutting gas needs to be adapted to application for best performance.
Lasers can also be used to cut 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 support material removal during drilling and piercing.