Laser cutting is an essential part of most industrial processes.
Laser cutting is the process of a powerful laser beam that is used to cut or engrave items from flat sheets of material. These materials can include plastic, wood or a wide range of other materials.
In recent years, laser cutting has become of the most popular choices to create intricate designs and shapes. One of the biggest advantages of the precision that laser cutters offer is that they don’t only have the capability to cut basic shapes into materials, but they can form intricate patterns, shapes, and designs meaning that the options are virtually endless. Another benefit of this technology is that the output does not require finishing work as the edges are left with a high-quality surface finish.
The precision levels and the quality of the edges that are achieved with laser cutting machines are much better and more efficient than the traditional cutting methods as the laser beam will not wear during the cutting process. This technology allows for complex shapes to be cut without the requirements of different tools and can be achieved at a much faster speed than other cutting methods.
But not all laser cutters are the same. Here is the rundown of the different types of laser cutters that are available on the market, each is suited to a different industrial application. Although each laser provides great benefits, they also have some limitations.
Types of laser cutters
There are three main types of laser cutters: CO2 lasers, fiber lasers, and neodymium crystal lasers.
CO2 lasers, also known as gas lasers, are one of the most commonly used types of laser cutters. They are based on a carbon dioxide gas mixture that is stimulated electronically create a wavelength of about 10.6 micrometers. They only require little power and are considerably inexpensive to operate. This type of laser is extremely popular and is the most widely used as if can be used on a wide range of applications and have an extremely efficient and excellent beam quality.
CO2 lasers are best suited for cutting or etching non-metallic materials such as wood, acrylic, glass, paper, textiles, plastics, foils & films, leather, and stone.
The laser beam is a line of extremely high-intensity light of a single wavelength or color. In terms of a CO2 laser, that specific wavelength a part of the Infrared light spectrum meaning that it is invisible to the human eye. The beam then travels from the laser resonator and is bounced in different directions by mirrors, also known as beam benders, that are in the machine, before it is focused onto the plate. The beam that this laser cutter produces goes through the bore of the nozzle before it hits the plate. Also flowing through the nozzle is compressed gas in the form of Oxygen and Nitrogen. The target of the laser is extremely hot as the compressed gas aids in generating heat which simply enables the machine to cut through the required material.
Due to the laser only requiring very little power, they can also be used for engraving applications. CO2 lasers also have various medical uses such as treating skin disorder conditions, cancers, along with assisting with particular types of cosmetic surgery.
Fiber lasers generate their lasers by means of the seed laser.
Fiber lasers are a much more powerful type of laser and can produce a wavelength of 1.064 micrometers. This type of laser is amplified in glass fibers that have been specifically designed to receive their energy supplies via pump diodes. The result is a beam that is 100 times more powerful than a CO2 laser, whilst emitting the same power.
Fiber laser machines are best suited for cutting coated metals, engraving metal, and high-contrast plastic markings. Fiber lasers generally require no maintenance and have a long service life that can produce at least 25,000 laser hours.
Neodymium crystal lasers
Neodymium crystal lasers include the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet, or Nd: YAG; and the neodymium-doped yttrium orthovanadate (Nd:YVO). Both are named after neodymium, the doping element, and the corresponding carrier crystal.
Neodymium lasers are similar to that of fiber lasers as they belong to the solid state laser group. Similar to that of fiber lasers, crystal lasers have a wavelength of 1.064 micrometers and are best suited for marking various materials such as metals, ceramics, and plastics.
The main difference between the two different types of lasers is that the neodymium crystal lasers feature pump diodes compared to the seed laser component in fiber lasers. The neodymium crystal laser will be more costly as the pump diodes must be replaced every 8,000 – 15,000 laser hours.
Due to the extreme precision that laser cutters provide, it allows for designers to create intricate designs without the worry of whether the design can be executed effectively. They also have the additional benefit of a refined output meaning that the final projects do not need to be polished or re-worked.
It is not hard to see why this laser cutting technology has become extremely popular in recent years. It allows designers to unleash their creativity whilst also allowing manufacturers to easily meet their client’s specific design needs.