Are you probably hearing of laser cutters for the first time and need to know more about the subject? Or you have an idea but in search of something more? If you answered yes to any of the two questions, this article is for you. We shall be exploring most of the facts you need to know about these cutters.
What Are Laser Cutters?
Laser cutters are powerful machines that help in the smooth creation of patterns as well as designs on materials. These materials could be paper, wood, metal, glass, gemstone, or plastic. Also, the designs are created with the help of a laser beam in the machine which vaporizes, melts, or burns through the materials. Custom designs, shapes, and pattern creation are made with the aid of a laser cutter, resulting in a better, faster, and smoother fabrication process.
A Bell Lab researcher, Kumar Patel, who is the inventor of laser cutters carried out his research on laser action in 1961 when he joined the Bell Labs. However, he was able to develop the first modern CO2 laser in 1963 which is used for the engraving of materials like acrylic, cardboard, MDF, and plywood.
Components of Laser Cutters
Let’s take a look at some of the important parts of the machine.
1. The Resonator
This is a glass tube that is air-tight and contains CO2 as well as other gases. This tube also contains two opposite-facing mirrors. The gases are mixed by an activation signal from an energy-emitting diode. This part of the machine is responsible for the emission of laser beams.
2. A Cutting Head
Light coming from the resonator is strategically bounced using various mirrors placed at specific angles to ensure the light gets to the cutting head. From here, the light is collected into a magnifying lens and made to focus on a particular point. After that, it goes out to the material to which it is focused through a special nozzle.
Other compressed gasses such as oxygen are also emitted during this process. It is fastened to a sort of mechanical system that’s driven by chains. The mechanical system helps the cutting head to make accurate movements within restricted regions.
3. Nozzle Distance
This is the distance from the nozzle to the plate. This distance must be accurate to get a fine cut.
Laser Cutting Varieties
There are majorly three cutting varieties. These include reactive or flame cutting, fusion cutting, and remote cutting.
This variety involves the use of high-pressured oxygen. The oxygen and the materials react, and this results in the burning and oxidation of the material in contact. In this reaction, the amount of energy released is large.
Here, nitrogen or any inert gas is used. The inert gas helps in blowing out molten materials in the kerfs, thereby, reducing the required power. The material focused on is blown up after it has been melted by heating.
An assisting gas is not required here as the material is partially ablated by a high-intensifying beam. This enables the surface to be easily cut without using gas. You can read this article to learn more about the cutting varieties.
Classes of Laser Cutting Machines
The cutters are classified based on the laser type the machine was built with. This also determines the kind of material, based on thickness, which the laser can cut through. Depending on the job you are handling, a high laser-powered cutter might be required, especially where you want to cut through large metal, glass, or plastic sections.
For thinner materials such as paper, wood, or card stocks a low-powered laser is required. In this section, we will consider the three major cutter types.
1. CO2 Gas Lasers
Here the CO2 is stimulated by an electrical means. The gas is produced from a mixture of gases like helium and nitrogen. This type could be used on materials like leather, glass, plastics, wood, and acrylic.
The energy of this machine is enough to cut smoothly through thicker materials. The wavelength of its beam is approximately 10.6mm. This is the most popular type of cutter as they are inexpensive, efficient, and cut through tougher materials.
2. Crystal Cutters
These are special lasers used in cutting some ceramics and metals, including plastics. Their smaller wavelength makes it possible for them to cut through stronger materials compared to the CO2 lasers. The downside to this is that they have reduced efficiency from worn-out parts due to their high power.
3. Fiber Cutters
The material used for cutting in this class of machines is Fiberglass. The seed laser supplies the first light, which is then amplified using a special fiber. This can be grouped under examples of disk lasers. These cutters have no moving parts and are energy efficient when compared to gas cutters.
Additionally, they can cut through reflective materials and not reflect. They are cheap, long-lasting, and require less expensive maintenance. They can also be used to cut through materials like metals and plastics.
The CO2 cutters are commonly used by manufacturers and professionals compared to the other two. Though they could be used in cutting through metallic materials, they work perfectly when used on non-metals like rubber, wood, or leather, including engraving tough materials.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Cutters
We must understand the importance of this powerful tool as well as the downside to it.
Below are some reasons why this method is better than other technologies like CNC milling.
- It delivers a high level of accuracy when used in cutting.
- It is cost-effective compared to CNC machines.
- The production speed makes the job faster than before.
- The contactless process helps to reduce the contamination risks.
- Their kerf widths are narrow.
Some major disadvantages of this cutting system include the following:
- It has a higher consumption rate of energy.
- It is not easy to cut through thicker materials using this method.
- Users stand the risk of experiencing burnt edges on materials been cut.
- There is usually a toxic release from materials like plastics into the environment.
You can visit https://sciencestruck.com/advantages-disadvantages-of-laser-cutting to read more on the advantages and disadvantages of this system.
Laser cutters are the perfect solution for the ease, speed, and accuracy at which cutting is done in production and designs. Using this system requires certain energy levels and can be dangerous to the environment. There are various types of cutters, and they can be used based on the thickness and difficulty of work required.