Laser cutting is a processing technique in which a laser beam is passed through vaporized material to cut. Many different types of lasers can be used for laser cutting.
Types of Lasers
One type is the CO2 gas laser, which has many advantages over other lasers in material selection, power consumption, and cost effectiveness. This article will discuss which laser to use in laser cutting and what each laser can do for your project needs.
- Gas lasers
- Fiber laser
- Crystal lasers
A CO₂ laser is a gas laser in which electricity is passed through a tube filled with carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and helium to produce light. The light produced by a CO₂ laser is invisible and falls into the infrared range of the spectrum.
Since mirrors surround the gas-filled tube, the light it produces is much more powerful than ordinary light. The completely reflective mirror causes the passing light wave to develop an intensity that increases as it moves back and forth through the tube. Once the light becomes bright enough, it passes through the partially reflective mirror.
CO₂ lasers are the most common type of laser used for laser cutting. They have many advantages over other lasers regarding material selection, power consumption, and cost effectiveness. CO₂ lasers are best suited for cutting plastics, rubber, and non-metallic materials. They are not suitable for cutting metals, which can cause sparks or fires that can damage mirrors.
A fiber laser is a solid-state laser in which electricity is directed through a fiber optic cable made of silica glass to direct the light. Because it is straighter and smaller, the laser beam is more precise than other lasers. The light produced by a fiber laser is in the visible spectrum range and is very bright, making it suitable for cutting all types of materials, including metals.
Fibers can be bent and twisted without loss of power or heat generation. Because of their different wavelengths, fiber lasers are widely used in industrial settings for cutting, marking, welding, drilling, and more. They also offer a small footprint, high electrical efficiency, and low maintenance and operating costs, making them popular for laser cutting applications.
The following criteria classify fiber lasers:
- Laser source: Fiber lasers vary depending on the materials mixed with the laser source, producing different wavelengths.
- Mode of operation: Laser beams can be pulsed at a set repetition rate to reach peak power (pulsed fiber lasers), or they can continuously send the same amount of energy (continuous wave fiber lasers).
- Laser power: The laser power is expressed in watts and represents the average power of the laser beam.
- Mode: Mode refers to the size of the core (where the light travels) in the fiber. There are two modes: single-mode fiber lasers and multimode fiber lasers. Single-mode lasers deliver laser light more efficiently and have better beam quality.
A crystal laser is a type of laser that uses a crystal as the light emitting medium. The most common type of crystal laser is the Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) laser, which uses neodymium ions to amplify light. Crystal lasers produce light in the visible range of the very bright spectrum, making them suitable for cutting all types of materials, including metals.
Crystal lasers can make very high power cuts, especially when low repetition is required, making these lasers well suited for drilling, engraving, and welding.
Although they are high power lasers, crystal laser cutters do not last as long as other laser machines and are very expensive to maintain the equipment.
Choose Your Cutting Method
CO² lasers are probably the most widely used gas lasers, primarily for laser marking, cutting, and welding. Although CO² lasers can cut most metals effortlessly, they are still less efficient at cutting metals than fiber or crystal lasers.
When choosing a laser cutter, it is important to consider the type of material you will be cutting. If most of your work is done on metal, then a fiber or crystal laser may be the best choice. However, if you need to cut various materials, including plastics, rubber, and non-metallic materials, then a CO² laser may be right for your job.
In summary, laser cutting offers many advantages for many applications, from industrial to hobby use. There is a solution for any need or budget with the different types of lasers on the market today.