Sawing vs. Shearing – Metal Cutting Methods

There are many metal cutting methods available. Two of the most commonly used are sawing and shearing. Each of these processes has its own advantages and disadvantages that make it suitable for different applications. Below, we provide an overview of both processes to help customers identify which one is right for their needs.

Sawing 101

Sawing utilizes a band saw cutting tool with small teeth around its circumference. As the blade moves across the surface of the metal, the teeth gradually remove pieces of material. The kerf of the cut—i.e., the width of the material removed—is slightly larger than the width of the saw blade.

Some of the reasons to choose sawing for metal cutting operations include:

  • Ideal for thicker materials. Band saws can maintain an accurate cut for thick materials like plates, bars, pipes, and tubes.
  • Broad material flexibility. The sawing process can accommodate thicker materials with a variety of cross-sections (e.g., tubes and I-beams).
  • Straight cuts. Band saws produce square edges, which makes the cutting process suitable for materials that require accurately straight cuts.
  • Small kerfs. Saw blades (particularly band saw blades using Cobalt material) typically leverage raker set teeth to produce smaller kerfs than the cutting instruments used in other cutting processes. As a result, less material is lost, which translates to greater material utilization and lower material waste generation.

Shearing 101

Shearing is a cutting method that utilizes two blades—a moving upper blade and a stationary lower blade—that are slightly offset from one another. During cutting operations, the stock material is clamped perpendicularly between the two blades. As the upper blade descends, it pushes the material down onto the lower blade. The load causes the material to deform and eventually split, forming the cut.

Some of the reasons to choose shearing for metal cutting operations include:

  • Ideal for thin sheets. The thicker the material, the more tonnage required to shear it, which can cause the material to stretch before it shears. This can cause tolerance issues as well as more cleanup.
  • Faster. Hydraulic shearing is more efficient and can cut materials more quickly.
  • Clean cuts with smooth edges. Cuts produced by shearing machines are generally clean and smooth, which decreases the amount of time and money needed for post-cutting finishing operations.
  • Little to no waste. The shearing process does not produce chips when cutting material, which reduces the amount of material lost and wasted.

Sawing vs. Shearing: Which Metal Cutting Method to Choose?

As indicated above, sawing and shearing offer many unique advantages. However, it is also important to keep in mind the disadvantages they hold. Together, this information can help you choose the right cutting method for your project. For example:

  • Sawing accommodates a variety of material thicknesses and shapes. However, it can be difficult to maintain contact between the cutting tool and the surface of flat material during cutting operations, which can lead to material instability and, consequently, cutting inconsistencies. As a result, the process is not ideal for cutting sheet metal and is instead best used with plates, bars, pipes, and tubes.
  • Shearing produces very straight cuts, but it cannot readily produce non-straight cuts. This quality makes it better suited for simpler, regular shapes rather than complex and intricate shapes. Additionally, the process requires a significant amount of force. This quality makes it possible to cut thinner sheet, bar, and rod materials (e.g., ½ inch in thickness or less) easily, but not thicker materials (since they may require more force than the machine can produce) or hollow materials (since they can deform).

Precision Sawing and Shearing Services at AAA Metals

Whether you need sawing or shearing services for your project, AAA Metals is here to help. We can saw and shear a broad selection of metals in various shapes, sizes, and quantities to tight tolerances. To learn more about sawing and shearing and how to determine which one is right for your cutting needs, contact us today.

AAA Metals also offers other metal forming methods such as waterjet cutting and laser cutting. To discuss your cutting requirements with one of our experts, request a quote.



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