Why is laser cutting stainless steel more expensive than laser cutting mild steel?

We’re quite often asked why laser cutting stainless steel is more expensive than laser cutting mild steel.

There are 3 main reasons for this:

  1. Higher Material Costs: Stainless steel is far more durable and has better resistance to rust than mild steel. For example, 316 stainless steel is used in the marine industry for bracketry and other boat components because it will withstand the harsh salt water marine environment. Thus it’s more expensive to buy even before the laser cutting element is considered.
  2. Higher Gas Costs: GF Laser utilises Nitrogen in what is known as an assist gas in laser cutting. The Nitrogen removes the material kerf left behind from laser cutting as it’s blown into the cutting path at high pressure. Although GF Laser buy the Nitrogen in a bulk format it still works out more expensive than Oxygen which is used as an assist gas for cutting mild steel.
  3. Higher Gas Usage: Linked to point number two is the fact that Nitrogen and Oxygen react in a different way when used as a laser cutting assist gas. Oxygen reacts with the metal to aid the cutting procedure whilst Nitrogen is only used to remove the molten metal. As a result the laser cutting machine requires the Nitrogen to be provided at much higher pressure than Oxygen. Thus the combined factors of higher price per litre and higher usage per cut metre add substantially to the cost of laser cutting stainless steel.

Although input prices are starting to settle down the price of Nitrogen has rose considerably over the past few years and we expect it to keep rising into 2024. However, GF Laser is still able to offer competitive pricing as we utilise the latest low energy fiber lasers combined with clever material nesting techniques.

To see how we can help you please contact us today.

A useful article comparing the properties of mild steel and stainless steel can be found here.