During this century, manufacturers around the world have adopted lasers as cutting tools on a widespread basis. Laser cutting as a machine process offers important advantages for metal parts designers and producers.
During laser cutting, an operator employs a high powered beam of energy to slice through material, usually in a carefully computer-controlled setting. The beam emitted from a laser typically outlines desired shapes precisely and cuts them away with burning, melting or vaporising force.
Most laser cutting machines rely upon a combination of a laser and optics to help change electrical energy into a concentrated light beam. In modern industrial environments, a computer typically controls the movements of a laser cutting machine with precision. The laser beam won’t change or wear away during this process, unlike the sharpened cutting blade of a manual tool.
The word “laser” actually represents an acronym. The letters signify “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.
A wide variety of different types of lasers exist today. The methods they employ to cut into material vary: cold cutting, scribing, vaporization, burning, melting, thermal stress cracking and combinations of these processes may occur. However, the three most important lasers currently used in industry include:
Also called “CO2” lasers, these machines rely upon invisible light in the infra-red range of the light spectrum. The laser machine directs both this light and a highly compressed gas, usually Nitrogen or Oxygen, through a single concentrated pinpointed nozzle. This process can generate intense focused heat. For instance, these lasers sometimes melt stainless steel or aluminum
A type of laser combining a pulsed laser with a jet of water. The liquid washes debris away from the cut surface of the workpiece.
This new style of laser amplifies a laser beam, passing it through glass fiber to generate a very fine cutting edge. These lasers have grown in popularity as metal cutting tools in recent years.
A CNC laser cutter combines the accuracy of computer-controlled movements with the power of laser-cutting tools. The acronym “CNC” stands for “computer number control”.
CNC machines use lasers together with 3-dimensional grids to complete precision laser cutting assignments. Recent generations of these machines can create a virtual reality 2-D model of a cut work piece to permit a manufacturer to examine the anticipated appearance of a laser-cut metal part in advance.
Manufacturers developed a variety of laser cutting systems. Three of the most popular types vary based upon the configuration of the cutting head:
Moving Material Systems: Materials move beneath a fixed laser cutting head.
Flying Optic Systems: Materials remain affixed to a stationary cutting surface and a moving laser operates overhead horizontally along an X-Y grid. This type of machine cuts workpieces rapidly.
Hybrid Systems: A configuration combining aspects of both of the other systems. A moving surface carries a metal part underneath a laser cutter which slides along a single horizontal direction.
Numerous applications exist for laser cutting. Industrial manufacturers rely upon this machine process widely. However, recently many small enterprises, educational institutions and even private hobbyists have embraced the use of cutting lasers to cut shapes from sheet metal, pipe and other forms.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
As a machine process, laser cutting offers distinct advantages. These benefits may justify a substantial initial capital investment. CNC laser cutting performs an especially significant role in industrial settings. At least seven important considerations contribute to the popularity of lasers in fabrication settings:
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