Laser cutting technology is a mainstay in metal manufacturing and industrial applications. This computerized and highly accurate method works by focusing the output of the laser at the material to be worked on to give a high-quality surface finish. Industrial laser cutters are usually used to cut flat sheet and piping materials. Two types of lasers have been prominently used in the industry; these are fiber lasers and CO2 lasers. In this article, we would be looking at the differences between these two technologies so as to determine which one is right for you.
They are called CO2 lasers because the laser light is generated in the tube that contains carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Nitrogen gas is introduced in such a way that makes the nitrogen molecules to collide with the carbon dioxide. These collisions result in the release of photos of lights. A beam of collimated light with a wavelength of about 10 microns is produced by combining and magnifying them in a resonator. This goes far into the infrared spectrum and it makes it invisible and also very good for heating. This light is then directed to the cutting head by a system of galvanometers and mirrors.
The beam of light is created the same way as described above by stimulating the emission of photons but without the gas. In this case, the light shines into any ytterbium doped fiber. This releases the photons just as the CO2 collisions do but the wavelength resulting from this is about 1 micron. A fiber delivery system is more common although galvos and mirrors could deliver the beam as you have with CO2.
Differences Between Fiber Lasers and CO2 Lasers
- Space and Power
Fiber lasers eliminate gas with all its pumps and pipes which make them smaller than CO2 lasers of equal power. Also, the light generation process is more efficient with less energy being wasted as heat. This is the reason you need chillers for CO2 lasers but this is not the case with fiber lasers. This also means that more of the input energy can be converted to cutting energy with laser cutters.
- Running Costs
In CO2 lasers, the gas can be consumed, unlike fiber lasers that do not need it. Also, fiber laser have a lower maintenance demand and higher efficiency, this makes them less expensive to run as compared to CO2 lasers. Click here.
- Differences in Cutting
The ability of a laser machine of a laser machine is largely determined by the wavelength of light produced by the laser. A more tightly focused spot is produced by a shorter wavelength of fiber. This allows it to cut thinner materials much faster than with a CO2 laser. The speed difference diminishes as the material gets thicker with a fiber laser. For a steel that is thicker than about 1/4 inch, the CO2 laser is often a faster option. Also, the type of metal a laser can cut can also be affected by the wavelength. Brass, copper, and aluminum tend to absorb longer wavelength light lesser and reflect more. This is why CO2 lasers perform better in cutting materials with shiny surfaces.
Whatever the technology you choose to go for, it is important to consider the impact it is going to have on your downstream processes. That is, what effect is this technology going to add the flow of operations performed on the parts after they are cut?