What temperature cuts metal?

What temperature cuts metal? - Fix It Cape Town

In the realm of metalworking, one crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked is the use of heat during the cutting process. Cutting metal involves the application of heat to facilitate the separation of materials, whether it’s through traditional methods or advanced technologies. Understanding the role of heat in metal cutting is crucial for achieving precise cuts, ensuring maximum efficiency, and maintaining the integrity of the metal being worked on. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of cutting metal involving heat, its applications, and the techniques used.

What is Heat Cutting?

Heat cutting, as the name implies, is a technique that utilizes heat to remove or separate sections of metal. This process can be accomplished using different heat sources, including flames, lasers, plasma arcs, and electricity. Each heat source has its own unique characteristics and application, providing a variety of options for metalworkers.

Traditional Heat Cutting Methods

  1. Oxy-Fuel Cutting: One of the most common and oldest heat cutting methods is oxy-fuel cutting. In this technique, a fuel gas and oxygen mixture, such as acetylene and oxygen, is used to create a high-temperature flame that heats the metal to its ignition point. The ignited metal is then blown away by a jet of oxygen, resulting in a cut. Oxy-fuel cutting is widely used in industries and workshops, favored for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

  2. Plasma Cutting: Plasma cutting employs ionized gas, also known as plasma, to cut through metal. An electrical arc is formed between the electrode and the workpiece, ionizing the gas and creating a plasma jet. The extreme heat of the plasma jet melts the metal, while a high-velocity gas flow blows away the molten material, enabling precise and clean cuts. Plasma cutting is highly efficient and suitable for a wide range of materials and thicknesses.

Advanced Heat Cutting Technologies

  1. Laser Cutting: Laser technology has revolutionized the metal cutting industry. A laser beam is focused onto the workpiece, delivering a high-energy density that melts, burns, or vaporizes the metal. Laser cutters offer exceptional cutting precision, speed, and versatility, making them ideal for intricate designs and complex patterns. Furthermore, laser cutting has the advantage of being contactless, reducing the risk of material damage.

  2. Waterjet Cutting: Waterjet cutting employs a high-pressure jet of water, often mixed with abrasive particles, to cut through metal. The waterjet is propelled through a small nozzle, producing a concentrated stream that erodes the metal. Waterjet cutting is a cold cutting process, which means it does not generate heat-affected zones or alter the material’s properties. This makes it suitable for temperature-sensitive or heat-treated materials.

The Role of Heat in Metal Cutting

Heat plays a crucial role in metal cutting as it softens the material, making it more malleable and easier to work with. Here are some key aspects of heat’s involvement in metal cutting:

  1. Thermal Expansion: When heat is applied to metal, it undergoes thermal expansion, causing it to expand. This expansion allows the material to separate or create a gap, making it easier for the cutting tool to penetrate and create a clean cut.

  2. Heat-Affected Zone (HAZ): Heat generated during the cutting process can lead to the formation of a heat-affected zone (HAZ) around the cut. The size and characteristics of the HAZ depend on the cutting method used and the properties of the material. Proper control of heat input is essential to minimize the size of the HAZ and preserve the metal’s structural integrity.


Q: Does cutting metal with heat affect its strength?
A: Cutting metal with heat can introduce a heat-affected zone (HAZ), which may alter the metal’s properties. Proper control of heat input and post-cutting processes, such as heat treatment, can help maintain or restore the metal’s strength.

Q: Which cutting method is best for stainless steel?
A: Laser cutting and waterjet cutting are often recommended for stainless steel due to their precision, clean cuts, and minimal heat input. These methods prevent overheating, which could otherwise cause deformation or discoloration of the material.

Q: Can heat cutting techniques be used on non-metallic materials?
A: Yes, heat cutting techniques can also be employed on non-metallic materials like plastics, wood, and ceramic. Laser cutting and waterjet cutting are especially versatile and suitable for a wide range of materials.


Heat cutting techniques are indispensable in the world of metalworking, enabling precise and efficient separation of metal materials. Whether it is through traditional methods such as oxy-fuel and plasma cutting or advanced technologies like laser and waterjet cutting, heat is harnessed to soften the material and facilitate the cutting process. Each cutting method offers unique advantages and suitability for different applications. Understanding the role of heat in metal cutting empowers metalworkers to select the most appropriate technique for their specific needs, ensuring the highest quality and efficiency in their work.

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