Laser cutting technology is rapidly gaining popularity in the manufacturing industry. This technology has changed the way many manufacturing companies transform raw materials into end products. Some companies now use lasers in place of sharp tools in cutting work-pieces. Although it may sound like new technology, laser cutting has been around for more than a half-century.
Lasers are primarily used by designers, engineers, and artists. They can take several forms, including laser cutting, laser melting, laser soldering, laser drilling, laser surface treatment, laser heat treating, and more. If you’re unsure how it works, here are three things to help you understand how laser manufacturing works.
Lasers Use a Laser Cutter
A laser cutter is a manufacturing or prototyping tool or machine that is controlled through a computer. Laser cutters utilize a thin laser beam to cut and pierce through materials to provide specific geometries and patterns set out by designers. Laser cutters will cut and etch materials into work-pieces by heating the work pieces’ surface. A designer can sketch something using design software and send it to the laser cutter to be cut out automatically into different design styles.
Once the design gets to the computer, the laser cutter uses a laser beam to cut into the surface material. Laser cutters are commonly used to cut a range of materials, including cardboard, wood, paper, and some plastics, with more powerful ones cutting much thicker materials and even metals.
Laser Manufacturing Work Requires a Lot of Power
Typically, laser cutting involves intense cutting and welding, consuming a substantial amount of power. The commercial laser efficiency varies with a rating range of 5 percent to 45 percent. Similarly, power consumption differs from one machine to another based on the machine model and output settings. While it is highly effective, laser cutting requires a lot of power compared to other cutting options.
However, besides power, laser cutting processes can also use gas. Some special laser cutting processes like melt and blow involves the use of gas. As the work-piece heats, the pressurized gas blows across the cutting bed to enhance the cutting process. This process is often used to pierce holes in metal materials such as aluminum, steel, titanium, and iron.
Types of Laser Cutters
Laser cutters come in three main types; fiber lasers, neodymium lasers, and CO2 lasers. All these three types are built similarly but have specific power ranges that enable them to function differently. The fiber lasers are designed from a seed laser then amplified through special fiberglass. Although fiber lasers have a wavelength and intensity almost the same as that of neodymium lasers, they often require less maintenance, probably because of their design. These lasers are commonly used in marking processes.
On the other hand, neodymium lasers are built from doped crystals. Their wavelength is relatively smaller; thus, they have higher intensity, allowing them to cut via thicker and more robust materials. However, they are not without a downfall – neodymium lasers are highly powered, meaning the machine’s components wear quickly and may require regular replacements.
The third type, CO2 lasers, are produced from gas mixtures electronically stimulated, and most of them comprise carbon dioxide. These lasers are common in commercial manufacturing because they are efficient, use less power, and less expensive. CO2 lasers can also cut and raster various materials.