Things to know about air-assisted laser cutting
If you work laser cutting metal, you will be familiar with makeup gas. You know that nitrogen and oxygen are the most popular auxiliary gases, and you may have heard that air-assisted cutting is a cost-effective alternative to those gases. However, how do you know if it is appropriate to use air as an aid in your laser cutting? Here are three things to know about air-assisted cutting.
How Does Air Assisted Laser Cutting Work?
The fiber laser does not rely on a beam of light to cut metal. The process includes injecting an assist gas into the nozzle to complement the process. The introduction of nitrogen, oxygen, or air helps transfer heat more effectively than lightning alone.
Initially, oxygen was the most popular gas for the laser cutting process. Nitrogen was later found to produce a cooler cut, and consequently more flawless edges, perfect for industries that regard edge quality as critical. But air is proving to be an effective and profitable alternative for more and more manufacturers.
This is not to suggest that air-assisted cutting is a radical abandonment of nitrogen or oxygen. After all, air is about 80 percent nitrogen, and the rest is mostly oxygen. The goal of air-assisted cutting is to use this high nitrogen concentration while taking advantage of the extra benefits of substituting a slightly more dilute gas.
What are the Advantages of Air Assisted Laser Cutting?
Air-assisted cutting has been around for almost 20 years. Machine tool manufacturers began researching and developing the process since 1998.
Air means a quick return on investment for those who use fiber lasers. The intense heat of fiber lasers, combined with injected air, creates rust-free cuts on the cut surface. This means that secondary cleaning operations are significantly reduced or even eliminated.
Nitrogen is an expensive gas. In some cases, the cost of gas alone can represent 90% of the total cost. Air is much cheaper.
Another advantage of air is the faster cutting and higher productivity it provides. Cutting tests on the entire range of materials and thicknesses prove it.