The term laser cutting, in general, is the process of cutting through a material (metal) with the help of a high-powered laser beam. The process is directed by CNC(Computer Numerically Controlled) machine from a CAD vector file.
It’s an industry standard for a faster and more accurate metal (and other material) fabrication. That makes it a choice of application for various industries such as aerospace, automotive, defense, data communication, electronics, transportation, and more. Laser cutting, unlike its traditional counterparts like plasma cutting, is more precise and use less energy when cutting sheet metal.
Different Types of Laser Cutting
Different types of laser machines are available in the market and they mainly differ by the type of laser they use for cutting the metal sheets. The most popularly used ones are:
Gas laser cutting, based on a carbon dioxide gas mixture laser beam stimulated electrically. Mostly suited for non-metallic materials and on most plastics.
Fiber laser cutting, with an incredibly small focal diameter, creates a hundred times higher intensity than the CO2 laser type. Optimally suited for metal marking by way of annealing, for metal engraving, and for high-contrast plastic markings.
Crystal laser cutting, solid-state lasers with 1.064 micrometers wavelength, same as that of fiber one. Suited for marking metals and plastics.
How Laser Cutting Works
The type of laser work you want, be it cutting, engraving, or etching, depends on the focal lengths of the lens used. A shorter focal length in case of a laser engraving results in high-quality detail work. Using a longer focal length, in case of laser cutting, allows for cutting thicker materials with a more precision cut and at faster speed.
The laser machine has a resonator which creates a beam. The beam travels through the specific paths to reach the focused target and the laser can be bounced to a number of directions which depends on the design of the machine and the resonator. The laser can be bounced either by bouncing off a mirror or by using beam benders.
The laser beam travels through the bore of nozzle before it becomes focused, right before making contact with the plate. This high power beam then makes the precision cuts by melting the sheet of the metal. The laser beam is passed along with high-pressure gases, typically nitrogen or oxygen, for creating the exothermic reaction that delivers the precision cut details.
The most common way to focus laser beam is to use specific lenses. Another way of focusing is to use the curved mirror which happens in cutting the laser’s head. The laser has to be focused properly and should possess proper density of the energy and proper shape. If these criteria are not met then the cutting work gets distorted.
Whatever your idea of metal fabrication may be, just remember that even being the same process, laser cutting, laser engraving, and laser etching, are separately designed for different purposes and all are equally important in the fabrication industry.