Laser cutting may seem like a futuristic innovation only fit for a laboratory. It is actually a thriving industry, with the market for these machines expected to grow to $5.7 billion by 2022.
Any industry can benefit from using a laser cutting machine. They allow for quick, precise cuts into a variety of materials.
Laser cutting machines come in plenty of different types and sizes. Buying one is an investment, which makes choosing the right one an important decision.
Read our laser cutting guide to find out how the process works, what it can do for your business, and how to begin utilizing it.
How Laser Cutting Works
Laser is an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation. They are focused, high-intensity beams of light that have become useful tools in various industries.
The first step in the laser cutting process is designing the product. A designer must digitally draw a pattern for the required cuts. Programs like Solidworks can create intricate 2D and/or 3D designs.
A laser cutting machine has special drivers capable of converting a file into something the machine can use. The designer’s work functions like instructions so the laser knows where to cut.
After the design is complete, the laser begins cutting metal. A special lens or series of mirrors focuses the beam, guiding it to the appropriate area. This creates an extreme level of heat that allows a laser to cut metal and other tough materials.
When focused properly, a laser quickly creates precise cuts. It is a more efficient and accurate method than traditional metal cutting.
Uses for Lasers
Lasers are used in various industries. Their ability to control intense levels of energy makes them a powerful tool.
Lasers can be used to cut any material. Anything from glass to cloth can be manipulated with the intense heat of the light beam.
The most common application is using a laser to cut metal like steel and brass. They deliver clean, precise cuts in materials that other cutters may not be able to make a dent in.
Machine shops need to create prototypes of their products to test features and look for any defects. They typically use lasers to complete this step, as it speeds up the production process. Lasers create exact cuts and can be adjusted if changes need to be made.
Even the medical field has found a use for the laser. In some cases, it replaces the scalpel to deliver precise cuts in difficult procedures like eye surgeries.
The versatility of laser cutters makes them a worthwhile investment. Any industry can use them to speed up their production process.
C02 vs. Fiber Optic Lasers
There are various different types of laser cutters. The two most common are CO2 and fiber optic.
CO2 lasers were one the first types of laser cutter. They are created through a mixture of gases that are electrically discharged.
Fiber optic lasers use laser diodes that pass through an electrical fiber. The beam is focused with a lens in order to cut metal.
While CO2 and fiber optic lasers are both effective tools, their differences give each type specific advantages and disadvantages.
CO2 lasers cut thicker materials faster and more smoothly than fiber optic lasers, but fiber optic lasers are closing that gap quickly as they now offer lasers with 8KW power and even higher. The higher the wattage the smaller the gap on speed and quality of cut for thicker materials, with the fiber even cutting faster on 8KW and up but still lacking the quality of cut that a C02 on material above .75″.
Fiber optic lasers are more energy efficient and have no moving parts, minimizing the costs of maintenance and operation. Since they do not have mirrors, there is no potential for damage when using the laser cutter on reflective metals like copper and aluminum. Fiber optic lasers can also cut through thin materials faster.
CO2 and fiber optic lasers are both able to increase efficiency and make powerful, precise cuts. The needs of a business determine which one is best.
Advantages/Disadvantages of Laser Cutting
Laser cutting is a common practice in a range of industries. It has numerous advantages, but there are also drawbacks to keep in mind.
Efficiency is the biggest advantage lasers provide. Laser cutters provide an accurate, intricate, detailed cut. This makes the machines a fitting choice for businesses that need to produce high-quality products quickly.
There are disadvantages to the laser cutting process. Copper and brass can’t be cut on a C02 laser and can only be cut on fiber optic laser if the material is .25″ thick or less. The only real other disadvantage to lasers is that they are not made for cutting plastic or glass.
Purchasing a Laser Cutter
Laser cutters are a worthwhile investment for any business that wants to cut their production time and/or increase the quality of their products. They are not all created equal, and purchasing the right one is important. Buying a laser cutter is a process of weighing different factors to determine the best machine for your business.
A laser cutting machine requires higher wattage than one working with softer materials. This power increase translates to a higher price. Size also matters, as larger materials require a larger machine.
Before buying a laser cutter, consider what your business will use it for. Decide how large it must be, how many watts of power it needs, and whether to use fiber optic or CO2 lasers. Then get a quote to see how much it will cost.
Efficiency is the name of the game in modern business, and cutting lasers provide it. While they all increase production speed, our TRUMPF TruLaser 5030 2D is the fastest fiber optic machine available today.
Where to Find Laser Cutting Services
Laser cutting increases efficiency, saving businesses time and money. The process is especially useful for those who need intricate cuts or have to work with tough materials. This could apply anywhere from a hospital to a shipyard.
Not every business can afford a laser cutter powerful enough to do its job. It’s not necessary to go through the process on your own. Another business can do the cutting, providing the same benefits as doing it yourself.