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The laser cutting phenomenon has been around for decades, but nowadays, it has become more and more relevant and popular due to its increasing demand within industrial processes.
The laser cutting process involves the use of a beam of light that creates heat and pressure to precisely reshape various materials as the cutting head moves over the surface of the material.
Laser technology can serve in multiple ways, including cutting, engraving, and drilling. In this laser cutting article, we will be discussing different types of lasers for cutting, the advantages of laser cutting, and the disadvantages of laser cutting. Apart from this, our focus is also on answering the most frequently asked questions related to laser cutting.
What Is The Laser for Cutting?
Laser for cutting are of three types, and each of the lasers offers continuous wavelength and can help in a range of purposes. That said, let’s look at different types of lasers for cutting:
The cutting is done with the help of electricity-simulated CO2. In a mixture of other gases like helium and nitrogen, CO2 is produced. The wavelength of CO2 lasers is 10.6-mm.
Compared to a fiber laser with the same energy, a CO2 laser comes with the ability to pierce through thicker material. When cutting thicker materials, CO2 lasers also give a smoother finish.
CO2 lasers are mostly used for wood or paper, acrylic plastics, and Polymethylmethacrylate. Apart from this, this type of laser is also useful for working with fabric, leather, wallpaper, and some other similar products.
Although, CO2 laser is also the laser for cutting metal or laser for cutting steel, generally, it is best for non-metallic materials. By boosting oxygen content, one can increase the power of the CO2 beam, however, it can be risky in inexperienced hands.
Crystal lasers most commonly generate beams from nd: YVO (neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate, YVO4) crystals, but they also use nd: YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet).
From military and manufacturing to medical and dentistry, crystal lasers can be used for various purposes.
Compared to CO2 lasers, crystal lasers can cut thicker and stronger materials, and this is because crystal lasers have a smaller wavelength than CO2 lasers, meaning higher intensity.
Nd: YVO exhibits a broader bandwidth, higher pump absorption and gain, broader wavelength range for pumping, a higher refractive index, a short upper-state lifetime, and low thermal conductivity. If we talk about the continuous operation, the performance level of Nd: YVO is similar to Nd: YAG in medium or high power cases. However, compared to Nd: YAG, the pulse energies of Nd: YVO are low, and the laser doesn’t last long.
Here, cutting is done with the help of fiberglass. The lasers originate from a seed laser. The general wavelength of fibers is 1.064mm. Fiber lasers have a long lifecycle of at least 25,000 laser hours and can produce strong and stable beams.
Fiber lasers come with the ability to cut metals and some non-metallic materials. Depending on the power, fiber lasers can be quite versatile as they can work with many types of materials. Compared to CO2 lasers, fiber lasers can manage intensities 100 times higher and can cut brass, copper, and aluminum much better.
Fiber lasers require less maintenance and have some resemblance to neodymium lasers. It won’t be wrong if we say fiber lasers are a long-lasting and cheaper alternative to crystal lasers.
Among the three lasers for cutting, makers and professionals mostly prefer CO2 lasers. The main strength of CO2 lasers is cutting non-metallic materials.
What Should Be The Power of The Laser for Cutting Acrylic?
The thickness of the acrylic sheet and the productivity that you desire determine the laser power you need to cut acrylic. A 60-watt laser power or more than is recommended for a productive work method. A CO2 laser is a good choice for working with acrylic.
What is The Laser for Cutting Wood?
The specialty of CO2 lasers is working on non-metallic materials, and for wood, a CO2 laser is the best option.
If you are thinking about the right laser for cutting plastic, CO2 laser once again is the ideal option. Apart from working on wood, a CO2 laser is also ideal and generally used for cutting plastic, glass, foam, and textile.
What is The Laser for Cutting Aluminum?
Aluminum is soft, reflective, and thermally conductive, and with the help of fiber or CO2 laser, you can cut it. However, a fiber laser can cut aluminum much better than a CO2 laser.
What is The Laser for Cutting Plywood?
A CO2 laser system is best suited for cutting and engraving plywood.
What Are The Advantages of Laser Cutting?
Considering the magnificent benefits of laser cutting, it wouldn’t be an overstatement if we say laser cutting is a miraculous process. That said, let’s address the key advantages of laser cutting:
- High accuracy
Laser cutting makes the use of a very small but extremely powerful laser that delivers the beam of light to the material it is cutting with high precision. The powerful laser makes sure to melt and evaporate material with high accuracy.
If you need high accuracy and precision cuts, a laser cutter is the best option. In the aerospace industry, tolerances are extremely tight, and since laser cutting comes with high accuracy, it is preferred in the aerospace industry.
- Ability to handle jobs of almost any complexity
For a laser cutter, it doesn’t matter how much of a complex job is. A quality laser cutter can do any kind of a difficult job.
Even if it is a very narrow section, the high-powered laser can efficiently work on it and cause very little warping to the area being cut.
- Less waste
Among the best things about laser cutting, one of them is that a laser cutter would make use of almost the entire sheet material, which means less waste of material.
It doesn’t matter what sheet material is in the use, by nesting cuts properly, the laser cutting machine will make use of most of the useable components of the sheet. This means, with a laser cutter, you will complete the project within a short amount of time, and the costs of the project will be low.
- Even if it is a thin material, laser cutting causes no damage or warping
You may be thinking that a high heat may cause a lot of distortion or warping during the laser cutting process, but this doesn’t happen.
The HAZ (Heat Affected Zone) of laser cutting is quite small and doesn’t cause any issues with the tolerance of the component. Due to this fact, laser cutting machines have become the ideal machines for cutting extremely thin materials.
The laser cutters cut through the material so quickly to make sure they don’t become excessively hot and warp.
- Low power consumption
Even if a laser cutter is needed to cut very thick material, it won’t require that much high energy. Rarely, a laser cutter would need more than 10 kW of energy to cut extremely thick material. This helps in decreasing overall running costs and also reduces the laser cutting machine’s impact on the environment.
- Helps with multiple tasks
Apart from cutting, laser cutters can also be used for engraving, marking, and drilling.
- Can work on almost any material
One of the most remarkable features of laser cutters is that they can be used on almost any type of material.
From stainless steel to wood, brass, aluminum, copper, and other materials, laser cutters can cut almost anything.
- Saves time
Compared to traditional laser scissors, the laser cutting process takes less time and gives better results as well.
Laser cutting won’t ask you to exchange tools for cutting different shapes as the same setup can cut multiple different shapes within the same material thickness.
- Contactless cutting
During a laser cutting process, there is nothing that comes in contact with the material other than the beam. This means, there won’t be any friction that could wear tools.
What Are The Disadvantages of Laser Cutting?
Although the laser cutting process is a part of almost every industry because of its amazing benefits, it does come with some drawbacks as well. That said, let’s address the disadvantages of laser cutting:
- Need of an expert
Laser cutting is a very advanced process, and to get the best out of a laser cutter, a specialist operator is needed. Without an expert, the quality of cutting won’t be top class.
A plastic, when melted, during the laser cutting process, produces fumes. The fumes can be toxic, and that is why you would need to place the laser cutting machine in a well-ventilated environment. Creating a well-ventilated environment for a laser machine can cost you a lot of time and money.
Compared to plasma or waterjet cutters, laser cutters are twice in cost.
- Carelessness can prove costly
The settings of the laser machine should be proper. Wrong settings can cause burns. Additionally, workers should not come in contact with the laser beam. The beam of the laser is harmful and can cause severe burns to workers who accidentally come in contact with it.
Why Laser is Used for Cutting?
Lasers are used for various purposes. The reason the laser cutting process is admired a lot is that it gives highly accurate results, yields excellent cut quality, and makes the impossible possible by cutting very intricate shapes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a cutting laser cost?
The number of laborers, the time it will take to cut parts, and the risk involved in cutting a part determine the cost for laser cutting. It is estimated that the cost is $20/hour.
How powerful is a laser for cutting?
Generally, for very high-speed applications, anything beyond 80-watt laser power is recommended. 2,000 trillion watts is the most powerful laser.
Can you tap a laser-cut hole?
Which is cheaper, laser cutting or waterjet?
Laser cutting is cheaper than waterjet. It is estimated that the cost of a waterjet is $30/hour.
How thick of wood can a laser cutting machine can cut?
When it comes to cutting wood, laser cutters can work with woods of thickness up to 30mm. Although, when the thickness of material ranges from 0.5 mm to 12 mm, many laser cutters work more efficiently.
What can you achieve with a laser cutter?
Generally, a laser cutter can help with three tasks and those are cutting, marking, and engraving.
Why is my laser not cutting?
There are few reasons, and the biggest reason is that the lamp tube is aging or the laser’s power is reduced. This makes laser beam energy insufficient; consequently, failing to cut.
What are the main uses of laser cutting?
Mostly, laser cutting is used in jewelry, automotive, mold, medical, die, and tool industries.
What quality cut do you get with laser cutters?
Laser cutters involve a narrow beam to produce highly precise cuts, which means you get quality cuts with laser cutters.
Laser cutting is a very advanced cutting process as it can help with various projects. It provides you with precise cuts and intricate designs. The results of laser cutting can make you feel wow.
Apart from explaining different types of lasers for cutting, the advantages of laser cutting, and the disadvantages of laser cutting, we tried to answer some of the other most frequently asked questions. Hoping this laser-cutting article helps you in some way.
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