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Laser Cutting: Digital Technique to Cut and Engrave Materials

Laser Cutting is a digital subtractive fabrication technique that consists of cutting or engravinga material by means of a laser. Laser Cutting can be used on a number of materials such as plastic, wood, cardboard, etc. The process involves cutting material using a powerful and highly accurate laser that focuses on a small area of the material. The high power density results in rapid heating, melting and partial or complete vaporizing of the material. As the heat affected area is small, around 0.5 mm, cut parts show minor deformation. Usually, a computer directs the high-power laser at the material and traces the path.

Laser Cutting
There are three main types of laser that can be used in Laser Cutting, which can either be pulsed or continuous.

What is the difference between CO2, Fiber and YAG lasers?

Laser machines available in the market differ by the laser source they use. At this time, there are only three main types of laser families that have the efficiency and output power to perform large-scale material processing: 

  • CO 2 laser: the Carbon Dioxide gas sealed inside the laser is “pumped” (excited by heating up) using an electrical curing which creates the stream of photons. It is generally used for cutting, boring, welding, and engraving.
  • Neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd-YAG) laser: the YAG is pumped using a lamp or diode to emit the stream of photons. It is generally used for cutting, welding, and inscribing metals and ceramics.
  • Fiber laser: it utilizes semiconductor diodes as the pumping mechanism and an optical fiber doped with a rare-earth element as the lasing medium.

The main differences between CO 2 Lasers and Nd-YAG/Fiber laser is the wavelength of the beam that it produces. CO 2 lasers usually emit far-infrared light at a wavelength of 10.6 microns. This wavelength is highly effective in processing a wide range of materials, including wood, paper, plastics, glass, textiles, rubber and metals. Fiber and Nd-YAG emit at a wavelength of 1.06 microns and are well suited for processing metals. However, plastic or organic materials cannot be processed with this wavelength.

Uses and benefits of a laser cutter

Laser Cutting is particularly effective in a number of sectors where production rate and speed are essential. It is easy to cut in all types of materials precisely, where traditional manufacturing methods prove to be inefficient. Where traditional manufacturing processes impose limits and constraints, Laser Cutting allows freedom of design and quantities. 

Overall, laser cutting allows:

  • High level of precision and positional accuracy
  • Material saving
  • High speed of production
  • Sharp and clean edges
  • Very little deformation of the material
  • Safe process