What is Laser cutting? Laser cutting is a thermal process in which a laser beam is focused to melt the material in the localized area with a co-axial gas jet that ejects the molten material and creates a kerf. By moving the laser beam or workpiece under CNC control the beam of light cuts the piece continuously. There are three types of lasers used for cutting metals: CO2, fiber, and Direct diode lasers. So, before you opt from one of these metal laser cutting services, learn about it in detail and find about its uses, benefits, and types.
Uses of Laser cutting
It can cut different metals of different measurements. The carbon-manganese steel can be cut up to 20 mm, stainless steel up to 12 mm, aluminum up to 10mm. Also, it cuts metals like brass, titanium, thermoplastics, wood, and different non-metals.
Benefits of laser cutting
- It reduces contamination and eases work holding.
- It does not wear down during the cutting process and materials are less prone to warp with laser cutting
- It provides high levels of precision and accuracy.
- It creates less wastage, lowers costs and consumes less energy.
- It can engrave complex designs on smaller parts without creating burrs.
Types of laser cutting used for metal sheets
There are three types of laser cutting methods used for metal sheets in industrial sectors which are CO2 direct diode and Fiber. Each type has its own benefits
CO2 laser cutting
A CO2 laser is a mixture of three gases; Carbon dioxide, Helium, and Nitrogen. This laser emits a wavelength of 10.6 um that generates beams of kilowatts in power and is used for material processing. The laser cuts thicker materials faster than the fiber laser and produces a smoother surface. The most popular approach for laser cutting is ‘Flying optics’ where the workpiece remains stationary and mirrors move from X and Y-axes. The primary advantage is that motors are always moving which can be heavier than the workpiece but easy to predict and control, but the disadvantage is the variation in beam size. The beam is never directly parallel but diverges slightly as it leaves the laser which means without divergence control the cutting performance in different parts of the table might vary because of change in raw beam and size. To reduce this one can use re-collimating optic or mirror control.
Apart from this, the laser offers two other alternatives too: fixed optic and Hybrid optic. In the fixed optic system the laser head remains stationary but the workpiece moves from the X and Y axes. This method is suitable for relatively light sheet weights because if the weight increases it can cause problems. While in the hybrid system the laser is moved on one axis and the material on the other axis. This is a better alternative to fixed optics but might have its own set of difficulties in heavier sheet weights.
Fiber laser cutting
A fiber laser is a form of solid-state laser. In this, the beam is generated by a solid medium. The fiber laser beam is generated by a series of laser diodes which are then transmitted through an optical fiber where it gets amplified. The amplified beam exits the optical fiber, collimates, and then focuses on the material to cut by a lens or concave. There are multiple advantages of fiber laser cutting:-
- The fiber laser does not have moving parts like a fan, gas circulation, and mirror which cuts maintenance and operating costs.
- Fiber lasers are twice or thrice efficient as CO2 lasers of the same power.
- Fiber laser cuts thin sheets faster than CO2 laser of the same power due to its better absorption of fiber laser wavelength at the cutting front.
- Fiber lasers are capable of cutting reflective materials without damaging the machine through back reflections. You can also cut copper, brass, and aluminum easily through this.
Direct diode lasers
Direct diode laser technology is the latest innovation in the field of solid-state lasers. Here, several laser beams emitted from diodes of different wavelengths are superimposed using beam combining techniques. Direct diode lasers do not include brightness increasing stage which gives lower optical losses and higher wall-plug efficiency. Direct diode lasers are multi-kilowatt levels of power and are available commercially and have been used for metal cutting applications.
This is how you can cut metals conveniently using laser beams and reduce the hassle that traditional techniques caused.