Laser cutting is an efficient and high-precision manufacturing method which uses a laser cutter to cut and etch into a material; laser cutting is often chosen as a cutting method by manufacturers for its reliability, speed, and energy efficiency.
What is the laser cutting process?
The laser cutting process begins with product design; once agreed upon, the design can then be programmed into the CNC laser cutter using digital software – this controls the behaviour of the laser cutter.
A laser resonator produces an intense and concentrated beam of light which is focused towards the surface of the material to be cut. Depending on the laser cutting equipment and method, the laser will melt, burn or evaporate the material to form a cut.
The laser head is able to move above the workpiece with an XY gantry which guides its movements forwards and backwards, and from side to side, according to the design to make cuts.
Types of Laser Cutters
The type of industrial laser offers differing intensities based on material thickness and type; these factors are critical in achieving a high-quality laser cutting finish, so selecting the right type is crucial.
Carbon dioxide lasers are one of the most common types of laser cutters; they’re a lower intensity laser, suitable for sheet metal laser cutting, offering a smooth surface finish with little need for linishing.
Neodymium lasers, made from neodymium-doped crystals, produce a higher intensity laser suitable for materials which require higher amounts of energy to metal and are used for etching, marking or even welding steel.
Fibre lasers are made from a seed laser and amplified using fibreglass for a highly accurate beam of light. The technology of the fibre can cut yellow steels such as brass and & copper as well as marking and etching the steel. It is programmed similar to that of the CO2 laser using Cadcam and similar software technology and has the advantage of offering a very small tolerance together with a smooth finish.
As mentioned above, there are several methods of laser cutting which should be chosen depending on the requirements of the project.
- Fusion cutting. Fusion cutting uses an inert gas (such as nitrogen) to blow partially-melted material from the kerf (or cut).
- Flame cutting. Oxygen is used as the assist gas in flame cutting, which reacts with the material when it is blown into the kerf to burn the material away.
- Remote cutting. The laser evaporates the material without help of an assist gas – this is used for thinner and more delicate materials.
- Fibre laser cutting. Fibre Laser Cutting technology works by focusing the power of a high-power laser beam. The advantage of fiber lasers over other types of lasers is that the laser light is both generated and delivered by an inherently flexible medium, which allows easier delivery to the focusing location and target.
Laser Cutting Process
Laser cutting has many applications. The capabilities for laser cutting stainless steel sheet and other industrial metals such as aluminium make it a popular precision cutting method. It can produce OEM products and parts for the automotive, aerospace, and architectural industries, amongst other sectors it is a precision machine for enclosures and cabinets to ensure insert holes and vents are accurate to the design and drawings. Laser cut sheet metal panels are highly accurate and can be quickly produced and in high volume batches.
The profiling capability is ideal for large batches of enclosure production needing intricate size requirements and hole size diameters within the design.
The laser cut application, is also used for etching capabilities by industries such as point of sale and signage to laser cut for decorative and branding purposes.
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