What is the laser cutting process?
Laser cutting works by having focused and precise laser beam run through the material that you are looking to cut. Initially, the laser is used to pierce the material with a hole at the edge, and then the beam is continued along from there.
The laser being used essentially melts the material away that it is run over. so is more like melting than cutting. This means it can easily cut light materials such as cloth up to tougher metals and gemstones such as diamonds.
You can use either a pulsed laser beam or a continuous wave laser beam, with the former being delivered in short bursts while the latter works continuously. You can control the beam intensity, length and heat output depending on the material you are working with, and can also user a mirror or special lens to further focus the laser beam.
Laser cutting is a highly accurate process, thanks to this high level of control that you are offered. Thanks to this, slits with a width as small as 0.1mm can be achieved when using the laser cutting process.
There are three main types of laser cutting:
C02 laser cutting
C02 laser cutting process is done using a gas laser. The gas in question is a carbon dioxide mixture which has been electrically stimulated. C02 laser cutting is most often used on non-metal materials as they have a wavelength of 10.6 micrometres.
Crystal laser cutting
Crystal laser cutting uses nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet) and nd:YVO (neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate) lasers. These are crystals which belong in the solid state group of lasers, and have the same wavelength as fiber lasers, around 1.064 micrometres. This means that they are useful for both metals and non-metals.
However, this type of laser machine is made up from expensive pump diodes, which can be costly when needed to be replaced; typically, after 8,000 – 15,000 hours of use. The crystal used also has a much shorter service life than that of a fiber laser.
Fiber laser cutting
This type of laser cutting process is completed using a fiber laser, the type of lasers that we have here at SPI Lasers. Like the method of crystal laser cutting above, fiber lasers belong to the solid state group too.
A beam is created using a ‘seed laser’, which is then amplified using glass fibers and pump diodes. They have the same wavelength as above, 1.064 micrometres. This means that the laser beam for a fiber laser is roughly 100 times greater than that of a C02 laser when it comes to intensity. It also means that they can work with both metal and non-metal materials.
A fiber laser is the most useful of the three laser types. Alongside the benefits listed above, they are often maintenance free, require much cheaper replacement parts, and have a much longer service life of around 25,000 usage hours
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