If you have no idea what a laser cutter is, you have nothing to worry about because we have you covered. In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about these innovative and versatile pieces of equipment.
What a Laser Cutter is
It is a piece of equipment with a strong laser beam that is used for cutting into different materials to create designs and patterns. The laser is very powerful and can burn, melt and even vaporize a wide range of materials.
Therefore, laser cutting can be defined as a production method that makes use of a thin, concentrated laser beam for cutting and engraving materials into customized shapes, patterns, and designs as desired by the designer.
This fabrication method is perfect for engraving a wide range of materials which include wood, paper, glass, plastic, metal, and gemstone. These laser cutters can produce elaborate parts without requiring a tool that has been custom designed.
How they Work
The laser beam’s diameter usually ranges from 0.1 to 0.3mm. The power consumption ranges between 1 – 3 kW. However, you need to adjust the power to match the type of material you are cutting as well as the material’s thickness. For instance, if you want to cut a reflective material such as aluminum, the power you require might be as high as 6 kW.
Hence, this fabrication procedure is not suitable for cutting reflective metals such as copper alloys and aluminum which we mentioned above. The reason is because of their light-reflective and high heat-conduction properties. As a result, they require more power.
The following are some of the basic parts of this piece of equipment:
1. Laser Resonator
It is from this part that the beam shoots out from. The resonator is made from a glass tube that is airtight with 2 mirrors facing themselves. This tube is packed with several gases including carbon dioxide, hydrogen, helium, and nitrogen. The gas mixture is made active by the diodes. The gases can also be made active via an electric discharge which emits energy as light.
2. Cutting Head
Light emitted from the resonator bounces in several ways with the aid of the different tactically arranged mirrors so that it can get to the cutting head.
After the beam gets to the equipment’s cutting head, a certain curved lens then allows it to pass through. The light is then magnified by the lens and concentrated on a particular point. This head is responsible for converting the laser into a concentrated beam that is powerful enough to cut all sorts of materials. Later, the beam then goes through the nozzle and then hits the plate accompanied by the compressed gas passing through the nozzle.
If the material that is being cut is stainless steel or aluminum, then the beam will first of all melt that particular material. After that, the well-pressurized nitrogen will then blow out the metal that is melted out of the kerf.
In most cases, the equipment’s cutting head is joined to a mechanical arrangement. This mechanical system is driven using a belt or chain. As a result, its movements are more precise. The lens focal point must be located on the material’s surface for it to get cut.
3. Nozzle Distance
There is always a distance between the nozzle and the plate. This distance is necessary because it regulates the beam’s focal point. The excellence of the cut is determined by the focal point. The excellence of the cut is also influenced by other factors which include beam speed and intensity. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjUVCho_xU to watch a visual explanation of how these pieces of equipment work.
There are three types of cutters:
1. Gas Cutters
These cutters make use of CO2 that has been electrically activated. This type of cutter also combines with helium and nitrogen.
The wavelength of this cutter is 10.6mm and it is powerful enough to penetrate a much thicker material which a fiber cutter that has a similar wavelength cannot pierce. This equipment is known for its smooth cut-finish.
They are the commonest and most popular of the three types due to their inexpensive price, efficiency, and the fact that they can cut as well as raster a wide range of materials. Some of these materials include glass, certain plastics, certain foams, paper-based items, leather, acrylic, and wood.
2. Crystal Cutters
The beam of these pieces of equipment is generated from neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate (nd:YVO) and neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (nd:YAG).
When compared to the CO2 cutters above, they are more powerful and can cut much stronger and thicker materials. The reason they can do so is because of their smaller wavelengths which produce higher intensity. However, this causes the parts to wear out much faster.
The materials this equipment can cut include metals, certain ceramics, and plastics.
3. Fiber Cutters
The cutting procedure makes use of fiberglass. They are gotten from what is known as “seed laser” which is then enhanced using special fibers. This type of laser belongs to the same class as nd:YAG as well as disk lasers. All three are part of the “solid-state laser” family.
When compared to CO2 cutters, these fiber cutters lack moving parts. Furthermore, their energy efficiency is twice or thrice that of CO2 cutters. Also, they can easily cut reflective materials and are suitable for metal as well as non-metal.
Like neodymium cutters, they do not need much maintenance. Therefore, they last longer and are cheaper compared to the laser type above.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The following are the advantages of laser cutting when we compare it to other types of cutting technologies:
- High accuracy and precision
- High-speed production
- More affordable
- No contamination risk
- Compatible with a wide range of materials
- Kerf has narrower widths
- Consumes a lot of energy
- Thicker materials may prove hard to cut
- Risk of releasing toxic plastic emissions
- Cuts might have burnt edges.
Click here to learn more advantages and disadvantages of this cutting technology.
There you have it; the important tidbits you need to know about laser cutters. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know.