What Is CNC Laser Cutting:
CNC laser cutting is a subtractive fabrication technique that uses a highly focused laser beam to melt, burn, and partially or completely vaporize materials. These materials can include metal, wood, plastic, leather, glass, and more. (This article will mainly focus on metal cutting). There are a few types of CNC lasers that use this non-contact thermal-based process.
How Do CO2 Lasers Work?
CO2 lasers work by exciting a gas mixture of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen, and helium inside of a glass tube. This glass tube has a mirror attached to either end, one which is completely reflective, and another which only allows certain light to pass through. The nitrogen in the tube is the first to become excited when exposed to electricity, which helps excite the CO2 gasses. When this occurs, the laser reaches a state called population inversion. Popular inversion relates to a system in which there are more excited particles than non-excited ones. In this situation, there are more excited nitrogen and carbon dioxide atoms than helium ones. The contact of cold helium atoms and excited nitrogen one's causes them to release light. The light released is reflected between the mirrors until it is powerful enough to pass through the semi-permeable mirror. The light that leaves the chamber is invisible, yet powerful, with a wavelength of around 10.6 micrometers.
What Materials Can C02 Lasers Process?
CO2 lasers are best for non-metallic materials, such as wood and plastics. Thinner variants of aluminum and other non-ferrous sheet metals can be cut by some higher-powered CO2 lasers.
How Do Fiber Lasers Work?
Fiber lasers are a part of the solid-state laser class. They do not use gas to create their laser beam but instead use glass fibers which derive energy from pump diodes. Because fiber lasers are solid-state, they can create strong and stable beams. Intensities 100 times higher can be achieved with fiber lasers compared to CO2 lasers using the same amount of power.
What Can Fiber Lasers Cut?
Fiber lasers work on metals and non-metals alike. At Rapid Metal Fab, we process aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel daily. Wood and plastics can be easily processed using a fiber laser. Even glass being a tricky material due to its reflective properties can be cut. To cut thicker metals, such as half an inch, a 6 kW laser should make quick work of it.
The other type of lasers typically used in metal fabrication are Nd:YAG and Nd:YVO lasers. These types of lasers offer extremely high cutting power but are expensive and have a shorter life expectancy. Because of these factors, crystal laser cutting processes are typically used in medical and military applications. CO2 and Fiber lasers offer similar performance in most manufacturing settings but at lower costs, therefore they are becoming the standard.
Do you know what LASER stands for? (Click to reveal the answer):
At Rapid Metal Fab, we primarily use fiber lasers because of the excellent beam they produce and their lower operating cost.
What Can Laser Cutting Do For You?
Laser cutting will allow you to create clean-cut and accurate metal parts more efficiently than ever. If you are performing sheet metal fabrication, a laser cutter is an invaluable tool when compared to alternative methods. Having the ability to cut at up to 15 inches per second makes quick work of a sheet of metal. As stated before, lasers are not confined to metals. They can cut many other materials as well, such as plastic and wood.
So, for the question, "What can laser cutters do for you?", the answer is simple. No matter what you are cutting, lasers provide tremendous accuracy and speed. This provides you with great-looking and performing parts, which are quickly made and repeatable.
At Rapid Metal Fab, we would love to help you create the custom parts you need. Let us know about your project or application here, and we will promptly get back to you. We also offer in-house engineering and consulting to make sure we deliver exactly what you expect. Thank you for reading and we hope to work with you soon!