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Laser Cutting

What materials can the laser cut?

The ability to cut a broad spectrum of materials is one of the strongest attributes of the laser. It is generally more cost effective than conventional cutting since it is faster and does not require cutting tools. Laser cutting is also a non-contact, non-force process well suited for cutting delicate or fragile parts that cannot take the stress of traditional machining. The thickness, cut pattern, and size of the part can vary depending on the material. A partial list of materials includes:

• Acrylic
• Alumina
• Cardboard
• Ceramic
• Composites
• Delrin
• Diamond
• Fabric
• Fiberglass
• Foam
• Laminate
• Leather
• Masonite
• Matte Board
• Nylon
• Paper Products
• Plastics
• Plywood
• Polycarbonate
• Polyester
• Rubber
• Stainless Steel
• Steel
• Styrene
• Teflon
• Vinyl
• Veneer
• Wood

and various other exotic materials.

Materials that cannot be machined by other means because of lack of conductivity, abrasiveness, or hardness can usually be cut using a laser. Materials with high reflectivity can also be cut but special precautions must be taken. A laser can also easily cut hard plastics with adhesive backs that gum-up stamping tools or knives.

How easy is the machine to operate?

The machine controls are easy to use and require little specialized training. An LCD display provides information about the file to be cut and allows editing of the laser settings. Additional buttons allow the user to move the cutting head, raising and lowering the bed, controlling the exhaust machine and regulating the gas pressure. The user can select a job file from the control panel that resides on any PC networked to the machine through our software.

Does the machine have a crash sensor?

Yes, the cutting head includes a crash sensor and break-away nozzle to reduce the risk of damage from setup errors.

What flexibility do I have in power settings?

The control panel is easy to understand and allows you to control all of the machine functions as well as download files, view and edit settings.

How does your machine deal with waste materials?

A dual exhaust machine provides efficient removal of cutting fumes. The vacuum cutting bed provides material hold-down and removes smoke from through-cutting. An additional top exhaust port removes residual smoke from cuttings. Many of our customers simply vent outside, but check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for its particular properties. Some materials may require a fume filtration machine and dust collector. As for material waste, the honeycomb or knife edge bed allows small pieces to fall through, which will gather in the plume. A shop vacuum can be used to remove the collected material waste.

Do I have to clamp parts before cutting?

The powerful vacuum cutting bed provides hold-down for most materials. Machine runs at rapid speed which also has dynamic acceleration which can displace workpiece due to vibrations, to secure the accuracy work piece is clamped. With our new modern system and mechanic clamping work piece is eliminated.

Does the cutting table move, or does the machine use flying optics?

The machine uses flying optics. The part being cut remains stationary while the laser beam is directed by mirrors that move over the surface of the bed on an XY table. This high-speed design provides a large cutting area while consuming a minimum of valuable floor space. The entire beam path is enclosed for safety and low maintenance.

Which lasers are suited for cutting metals and non-metals?

CO2 Laser for non metals
Nd: YAG & Fiber Laser for metals
UV & Green Laser for majority of materials including metals & non-metals.

How does the machine achieve positioning accuracy?

The linear drive machines use closed loop servo motors with linear encoders that enable precise positioning and repeatability. This machine provides extremely high accuracy, at all speeds, and does not change over time.

Is accuracy the same over the entire cutting bed?

Yes.

What is the tallest item I can fit on the cutting bed?

Our machines provide different model range from 50mm upto 1500mm of clearance for cutting. By adjusting the height of the cutting head, the machine allows for custom fixturing of tall parts for secondary laser cutting operations.

What are the maintenance requirements of the machine?

The machine requires basic clean up daily. Use a shop vacuum to clean the plume and cutting bed, and wipe it down with a cleaner once a week. The encoder strip can be cleaned with alcohol only.

How often do I have to replace parts?

One of the many advantages of a laser cutting machine is that there are no tools to wear or break over time. There are few consumable parts within the machine itself. The knife edge bed will need to be replaced as it degrades over time. This part is manufactured by same machine and typically needs to be changed every 6 months. Other parts can be replaced as required, but should not be often. The flying optics are sealed and protected, and should not have to be replaced with proper operation. Protection glass & nozzles are one of the most common consumables.

Does the machine include CAD/CAM software?

Yes, Machine includes a CAD/CAM package designed specifically for laser cutting. this lets you easily edit geometry, manipulate layers, control the tool path, step-and-repeat parts and combine multiple processes. The user selects settings from an integrated database of materials. The database can be edited and stores an unlimited number of settings.

Why should we switch from a tool-based cutting system to a tool-free (laser cutting) system?

It’s not a matter of switching to tool-free cutting. Rather, it’s advisable to add laser cutting to whatever tool-based cutting systems you already utilize in your finishing department.

Whether one is screen printing flexible circuits, or complex product faceplates such as those used on mini cell phones, or creating an intricate design label, there will come a point when you run up against the very real limitations of any die-based cutting system—whether it is a rotary die cutter, platen press, optically-registered gap press, etc. Sometimes this limitation presents itself when handling ultra-thin delicate substrates where there is a difficulty making precise cuts with a mechanical die. Even with more substantial materials tiny features such as micro-perforations and especially design features including many small sharp angles pose challenges to a tool-based cutting system. Male-female dies face inherent constraints in creating corners that are less than 30 degrees, even in best-in-class tool-based cutting systems. Then there are the problems of adhesives that quite literally gum up the works of tool-based cutting systems. Or, consider the costly wear and tear on dies that make it nearly impossible to cost-effectively cut abrasive substrates.

Laser cutting systems, because they are tool-free, do not have to contend with any of these challenges. Better yet, the costs and delays involved in tool fabrication are bypassed. For short runs especially the costs and time delays for tooling are especially significant. That is why laser cutting systems offer such a clear advantage for prototyping.

However, it would be a mistake to think that laser cutting will replace the tool-based cutting technology used by screen printers. If part geometries are not out-of-reach of a tool-based cutting system, and if easier to cut substrates are being cut, if hand labor would not be required for parts extraction, and especially if it involves a long run length, a male-female die or steel rule die based cutting system will many times provide a more cost-effective solution.

Why is laser cutting called digital die cutting?

Laser cutting systems are tool-free. They take any vector-based digital image and import it into their operating software to set up a job. The best-in-class laser cutting systems can complete set up from these imported digital images in just a few minutes.

The ‘digital die cutter’ term that is used interchangeably with laser cutting speaks to this advantage that tool-free cutting systems provide, especially when used in combination with digital printers. The combination of an imported digital image into a digital printing press followed by a laser cutting system allows one to move from artwork to finished product in just a few hours, or even less for very short runs.

How are today’s laser cutting systems different from earlier generation technology?

The capabilities of latest generation best-in-class laser cutting systems are dramatically more advanced than the technology that was first introduced five or so years ago. Basically, three areas of technological improvements contribute to these more far ranging capabilities – advances in lasers, software, and software integration.

Manufacturers of the lasers used in laser cutting technology have continued to improve them and to offer better lasers at lower cost. These newer lasers shape beams with greater precision. And, higher powered lasers now cost less, such that even basic laser cutting systems can use competitively priced 200 watt or 400 watt lasers today, compared to these only being available in the priciest systems several years ago. To a certain extent, higher-powered lasers facilitate faster cutting action. The better-shaped beams of today’s lasers are also more easily steered by galvo systems at greater speeds.

These improvements in lasers, while significant, are surpassed by the advantages conferred by the high quality software engineering in today’s better laser cutting systems. The best-in-class systems have improved software at every level— the building block algorithms of programs are more robust, the mathematical concepts that underlie the programming are more sophisticated, and the overall systems integration is more comprehensive. The end result is in software that works behind the scenes, so to speak, to control and maneuver laser beams within tolerances that were out of reach only a few years ago and to do so without any programming expertise required of the operator.

Users of newer best-in-class laser systems see these improvements in several ways. The telltale pinholes and burn throughs that were made by earlier generation laser cutting systems have been eliminated. In turn this has made a wide array of special features that laser cutters can excel in— perforations, creases, score lines, kiss cuts, consecutive numbering, personalization’s, etc.—more doable.

Are laser cutting systems used for prototyping or full production?

Both. The advantages of laser cutting systems being tool-free will always make them a superior option for prototyping work because there is no delay or expense for tooling. Now, however, better lasers and better software engineering create a speed improvement in the newer laser cutting technology. The better shaped beams not only make steering the lasers faster but the best-in-class laser cutting systems take this a step further with software engineering that shaves milliseconds off of every operation cumulating in speed increases. These systems’ software takes it even further by optimizing cutting sequences for faster throughput. They also use smart control systems that monitor operating conditions such as registration, web control, and integrated laminating and slitting operations and allow programming of automatic shut-off at the completion of runs or when material or machine conditions require. The upshot is that today’s laser cutting technology is geared for full production too.

(Note: The speed of laser cutting systems is highly job dependent. A highly intricate cutting pattern involving a long linear cutting path will take longer than a straight crease line, for example.)

What is involved in job setup and job changeover?

Setup is comparable to that required for a digital printing press. In the better laser cutting systems, software tools are built in to improve imported DXF or DWG files for best laser cutting results. These tools provide corrections for difficulties created by vector type files allowing shorter setup times and overall improvement of the laser cutting results. The best-in-class systems also will simulate the job production rate during set up telling operators precisely how long a job will take. And, the job set up specifications are saved so that they can be recalled at a later time, making a changeover to that repeat job a simple matter of a few keystrokes done in seconds.

What are the limitations of laser cutting systems?

Laser cutting systems can make cuts as small as the laser beam diameter, i.e. 210 microns in the better systems. Material limitations are sometimes an issue. Although the precise definition of “thick” is changing and dependent on material grade, laser cutting on thick polycarbonate substrates continues to be beyond the current systems’ capabilities such that discolorations usually occur. If polycarbonates are too thick for laser cutting, the best technology fit is usually with the high precision optically-registered steel rule die or hard tool cutting systems that can deliver registration accuracy +/-0.1 mm.

For especially long runs with many hundreds of thousands of linear feet the expenses for tooling are insignificant contributors to overall job cost and the delays for making tooling are insignificant, tool-based cutting systems (rotary die cutters, optically registered gap presses, platen presses) will continue to be the cutting method of choice. For such large orders, if dies can be fashioned to reliably handle the required details of part geometries, there is usually little advantage to laser cutting systems because even the highest wattage modern systems are still a bit slower.

How do the various brands and models of laser cutting systems one finds in the marketplace differ and what are the suggested practices to find best fit technology?

There is a wide range of capabilities in the laser cutting systems one runs into, largely determined by the sophistication of the software engineering employed. This means that you need to test various options thoroughly before you purchase a system.

One way to do that is by providing materials to get samples cut to your specifications and to look at the range of samples provided by manufacturers and the cutting precision they demonstrate. Better yet, it is highly recommended to enlist the contract manufacturing services that are provided by reputable laser cutting system manufacturers. These will not only demonstrate ability to generate the features your applications require but will give you details on expected operating efficiencies and throughput for your applications.

What are the problems with laser cutting of aluminum and how to overcome them?

All metals are reflective to CO2 laser beams, until a certain power density threshold value is reached. Aluminum is more reflective than C-Mn steel or stainless steel and has the potential to cause damage to the laser itself. Most laser cutting machines use a laser beam aligned normal to a flat sheet of material. This means that should the laser beam be reflected by the flat sheet it can be transmitted back through the beam delivery optics, and into the laser itself, potentially causing significant damage. This reflection does not come entirely from the sheet surface, but is caused by the formation of a molten pool which can be highly reflective. For this reason, simply spraying the sheet surface with a non-reflective coating will not completely eliminate the problem. As a rule, the addition of alloying elements reduces the reflectivity of aluminum to the laser, so pure aluminum is harder to process than a more traditional 5000 series alloy.

With good, consistent cutting parameters the likelihood of a reflection can be reduced to almost zero, depending on the materials used. However, it is still necessary to be able to prevent damage to the laser while developing the conditions or if something goes wrong with the equipment. The ‘aluminum cutting system’ which most modern equipment uses is a way of protecting the laser rather than an innovative technique for cutting. This system usually takes the form of a back reflection system which can detect if too much laser radiation is being reflected back through the optics. This will often automatically stop the laser, before any major damage is caused. Without this system there are risks with processing aluminum as there is no way of detecting if potentially hazardous reflections are occurring.

Note: Always check with the laser supplier that the system is designed for processing aluminum before attempting to cut it. Some other materials, for example brass, may also require the back reflection protection system so it is also advisable to check with the supplier before processing any new material.

What is the feed rate?

For 1.0 Millimeters Stainless Steel,
O2 Cut: – Cutting Data for 1000 Watts – 7 m/min
Mode: Continuous Wave.
Federate : 7 meters/min.

Does the machine have adequate ventilation?

Yes. A dual exhaust machine provides efficient removal of cutting fumes. The vacuum cutting bed provides material hold-down and removes smoke from through-cutting. An additional top exhaust port removes residual smoke from engraving.

Many of our customers simply vent outside, but check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for its particular properties. Some materials may require a fume filtration machine and dust collector.

How do i determine which cutting method to use?

To determine the best cutting method for your process, conduct a careful examination of your production needs. All cutting methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Typical criteria used for most process evaluations should include the following:

• Material To Be Processed
• Range of Material Thickness
• Accuracy Required
• Material Finish Required
• Production Rate Desired
• Cost of Technology
• Operating Costs
• Operator Skill Requirements

What are the advantages of using a laser cutting machine?

There are many reasons to choose a laser cutting machine. There is almost no limit to the cutting path of a laser—the point can move in any direction. This means that very complex designs can easily be performed without expensive tooling costs or long lead times. Small diameter holes that cannot be made with other machining processes can easily and quickly be performed with a laser. The process is non-contact and non-force, allowing very fragile parts to be cut with little or no support, and the part keeps its original shape from start to finish. Lasers can cut at very high speeds. Lasers do not have parts that will dull and need to be replaced, or that can break easily. Lasers allow you to cut a wide range of materials, and produce a high quality cut without requiring secondary processes. Laser cutting is a very cost effective process with low operating and maintenance costs and maximum flexibility.

How easy is the machine to operate?

The machine controls are easy to use and require little specialized training. An LCD display provides information about the file to be cut and allows editing of the laser settings. Additional buttons allow the user to move the cutting head, raising and lowering the bed, controlling the exhaust machine and regulating the gas pressure. The user can select a job file from the control panel that resides on any PC networked to the machine through our software.

Is there need of separate system for marking or cutting ?

Our Fiber laser cutting systems will mark and cut most metallic materials, as well as mark coated metals. No, one laser does it all! CO2 Laser systems will engrave and cut most non-metallic materials, as well as engrave coated metals. For information on what materials you can engrave and cut, visit our Materials page. The laser can be set to mark only, cut only, or can complete both operations in Combined Mode. The laser knows what portions to mark and what portions to cut based on line width, which is easily set in your cad design software.

In laser cutting machine, what is cutting accuracy?

It depends on how fast you want to go, what shape your cutting, how precise your XY stages are, how well your laser controls the spot size and high cost of machine means higher accuracy.

How does a laser cutting machine compare to a router?

In general, routers provide a low-cost method for a variety of capabilities. Face milling on a router produces a smooth, clean finish. A router offers strong drilling performance, and is good for cutting thick plate, or several thin sheets of material clamped together.

However, with a router you need to find a way to hold down the material. Our products have a vacuum cutting bed that provides material hold-down. A router needs to be sharpened and replaced over time, while the laser is “permanently sharp.” With a router, variations will also occur as the blade gets duller while cutting, and parts are limited in the complexity of the design. With lasers, the focused area is very small, so detail is vastly greater-—anything you can draw, you can cut. Routers are also unsafe due to small pieces that can fly loose, while our machines are enclosed and have a powerful vacuum bed that captures small pieces. Finally, routers are very noisy (to the point where safety equipment must be worn), but that is not the case with lasers.

How does a laser cutting machine compare to a steel rule die?

In terms of dies, the cost of the tooling in a steel rule die is one of the lowest in all die technologies. The blades can also be changed easily, relative to other dies, when necessary. It takes 3 to 5 days to have the dies made, which is short compared to other die technologies, but tremendously long compared to laser cutting machines, where cutting is instantaneous.

Dies are great when accuracy is not required, such as for boxes or garments. Overall, however, there is a major lack of accuracy and fine detail. Designs are limited to complexity—the more complex the part, the more it will cost to produce and the longer it will take. Large dies are even more expensive, and the lead time even greater. In some circumstances, especially for short-runs, the job may not even be worth the costs. Lasers, on the other hand, have a very small focus, so you are not at all limited by design or size—anything you can draw can be cut quickly and accurately. If any changes need to occur to the design, dies are difficult and expensive to change—it needs to be completely retooled. With a laser cutting machine, you need only make the changes to your design and save them to your file. This makes it easy, cost-effective, and efficient to make modifications with a laser.

Dies wear out and have to be sharpened, while lasers do not encounter this problem. You will also require a lot of space to store the dies for your customers. The only space you need for your laser machine is for the machine itself. Finally, though it is possible to kiss-cut parts with dies, it is much more difficult and less accurate than with laser cutting.

How does a laser cutting machine compare to water jet?

Water jet cutting works well for certain types of materials, such as titanium, granite, marble, concrete, and stone. Cut edges are clean with minimal burr. Problems encountered with other methods, such as crystallization, hardening, and reduced machine- or weld-abilities, are eliminated. Parts remain flat and there is no tooling to design or modify. Costs associated with secondary processes also do not exist.

In general, however, a water jet has lower precision than a laser because the focus is larger and it cannot get the same level of detail that a laser can. Many materials cannot be cut by a water jet because they will shred or flutter. There are also lots of problems associated with the disposal of the abrasives used in the water jet, problems which do not exist for a laser cutting machine. The nozzles and parts wear out quickly, which leads to variations in the cut, as well as higher expenses for replacement components. With lasers, there are no parts to wear or break over time. Water jets tend to move fairly slowly, while a laser is typically much faster. Finally, your parts get wet with a water jet. It is very messy, noisy, and humid. Obviously, with a laser, your parts do not get wet, and the process is much cleaner with less inconveniences.

How does a laser cutting machine compare to electrical discharge machining (EDM)/wire cutting?

EDM allows for cutting complex shapes and thin-walled configurations without distortion. EDM is suitable for materials considered too hard or where adhesion is a problem for traditional machining, and for materials typically machined by grinding. EDM can replace many types of contour grinding operations and eliminate secondary operations such as deburring and polishing.

In general, however, EDM is really only suited for metal cutting. Laser cutting machines, on the other hand, can be used for a wide variety of applications and materials. EDMs can cut thick, hard metals, including steels with hardness above RC 38. If that is your main application, then this process may be suitable for you. Otherwise, you will find the machine is very slow and fairly limited in its capabilities. There are also parts to replace, such as when a wire breaks, which can slow down production and increase costs. This problem will not be encountered with a laser cutting machine.

How does a laser cutting machine compare to knife cutters?

Knife cutting machines have been designed to process a variety of materials including technical textiles, industrial fabrics, paper, corrugated materials and more. These machines can be equipped with a range of tool heads for total cutting, kiss-cutting, creasing, routing, milling, drilling, etc. They have the ability to produce prototypes and samples rapidly.

In general, however, knife cutters encounter problems with material hold-down. Our products have vacuum cutting beds which provide material hold-down. Knives also dull over time, so parts have to be replaced. This causes issues with variations in your part due to dulling. Lasers do not have any parts that can wear or dull, so these parts do not have to be replaced and accuracy is maintained throughout the entire cut. Also, knives can’t cut very thick materials. It is best used for thin sheet metal cutting. Otherwise, you will experience limitations in cutting that are not found with laser cutting machines. A laser can also easily cut hard plastics with adhesive backs that gum-up knife cutters.

How long does it take to learn to use a laser?

If you know how to use graphic design software, you can be up and running in minutes! There is no proprietary software to learn so you can use the programs that you are already familiar with to make the transition into laser engraving as smooth as possible. It will take a bit of trial and error to learn what speed and power settings to use with different materials, but we include a comprehensive guide with your system that has recommended speed and power settings for various materials with which you will be working.

Miscellaneous

In which industries laser-based applications are widely used?

Application of laser depends on the output power and their properties (Narrow bandwidth, narrow angular spread).
Lasers are mainly used in
1) Scientific

2) Military
• Due to high intensity, laser beam can be used to destroy very big objects like aircraft, missiles in a few second by directing the laser beams into the target.
• As such it is called “Death Ray” or “Ray Weapon”.
• Laser beam can be used in laser gun.

3) Communications
• Due to narrow bandwidth, lasers can be used in microwave communication
• Due to narrow, angular spread, the Earth-Moon distance has been measured with use of lasers.
• Water communication is possible because laser radiation is not absorbed by water.

4) Industry
• The lasers have wide Industrial applications.
• Lasers can be focused into a very fine beam, resulting in raising the temperature about 1000K. So, they can blast holes in Diamonds and hard steels.

5) Medical
• They are used in treatment of detached retinas.
• They are used in Human and Animal Cancer.
• Micro surgery (due to narrow, angular spread)

6) Weather forecasting
• Picture of clouds, wind movements, etc., can be obtained with laser beam.
• The data so obtained can be used in weather forecasting.

7) Photography
• Using laser, we can get SD lens-less photography using interference techniques, we can take hologram which is analogous to negative of the photogenic film.

8) Chemical Applications
• Lasers can initiate or faster certain chemical reaction which could not be possible in the absence of suitable photons.

LASERS are widely used in industrial applications and Medical applications.

In which industry the use of laser is most prominent?

In Every industry where more precise and accurate work like micro machining, grooving, cutting, marking, welding is necessary, laser source is suitable. Some industries like automobile industries, Marking and Cutting industries, which are prominently used laser source.

Which components in laser machines will require separate purchase, servicing, or replacement?

These are the following components used in laser machines for servicing and replacement :
1 . Lens
2 . Mirrors
3 . Beam Expander
4 . Protective windows for lens and mirrors
5 . Galvo scanner and galvo lens.
or any opto-electrical, opto-mechanical components.

Which materials are unsafe to process under the laser?

Certain materials are unsafe to use in a laser process. Processing these materials creates dangerous gases or dust.

These materials are:

  • Any material that contains Chromium (IV) like leather and artificial leather.
  • Carbon Fibers
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB)
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTEE/Teflon)
  • Beryllium Oxide
  • Any materials containing halogens

There are some materials that are unfit for process but we can use such materials by precaution and care like:

  • Manganese
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Sulphur
  • Zinc

These materials release toxic gases that are unsafe for you and the electronic systems in the machines.

About Lasers

What is Laser?

When energy is applied to an atom it can move from ground state energy level to excited state energy level. When returning to ground state, the atom releases energy in the form of light called Photons. “Laser” is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is a device that helps in emitting light via a process of optical amplification. Today, it is used in various industrial applications.

How laser beam can be generated?

Laser beam is generated when, an electrical current or another wavelength to active medium such as CO2, sodium, He-Ne, etc.

The atoms present in the active medium are excited to higher energy level, then this atom satisfy the population inversion phenomenon. finally, the atoms come to generate state from higher energy level state at that time atoms will emit stimulated emission or laser light or laser beam.

What are the types of Laser?

The most common used lasers for industrial material processing are:

  1. CO2 Laser
  2. Nd:YAG Laser
  3. Fiber Laser
  4. UV Laser
  5. Green Laser

What is the wavelength of the laser sources ?

Fiber: 1060 – 1070 Nanometers

Diode: 810 – 1064 Nanometers

CO2: 10.6 – 10.7 Micrometer

Nd: YAG: 1060 – 1070 Nanometers

UV Laser: 355 Nanometers

Green Laser: 532 Nanometers

Difference between CO2, Fiber and Nd: YAG Laser?

CO2 Lasers are gas Lasers that use Carbon Dioxide as the lasing medium. Powerful sealed CO2 lasers that 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. Gas lasers that use carbon dioxide as the lasing medium. CO2 lasers are offered in either sealed or flowing gas configurations. Sealed CO2 lasers are generally under 500 watts and are less expensive to operate.

Fiber and Nd: YAG’s are solid-state lasers that use elements like Neodymium (Nd), Erbium (Er) and Ytterbium (Yb) diffused in a crystal of Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet (YAG) or glass (in the case of Fiber) as the lasing medium. Fiber and YAG emit wavelengths 1060-1070 nm and are well suited for processing metals, especially high reflectivity metals like copper, brass and aluminum. Plastic or organic materials cannot be processed with this wavelength. YAG Laser are Solid-state lasers that use the element Neodymium (Nd) diffused in a crystal of Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet (YAG) as the lasing medium.

What are the maintenance issues for CO2, Fiber and Nd: YAG?

Fiber Laser – Fiber lasers utilize semiconductor diodes as the pumping mechanism and a doped fiber optic cable as the gain medium. Fiber Laser provides continuous output power because of the fiber’s high surface area to volume ratio, which allows efficient cooling. Fiber lasers are generally maintenance-free with an In-built air cooling system and a long service life of at least 25,000 laser hours.

Nd: YAG – Unlike fiber lasers, these laser types include the relatively expensive pump Diodes, which are wearing parts. They must be replaced after approx. 8,000 to 15,000 laser hours max. The crystal itself also has a shorter service life than a fiber laser. However, in the past Nd-YAG used flash lamp pumping where the lamp required changing after 700 hrs. of usage.

CO2 – Cooling the laser effectively and efficiently is a critical process. Failure to do so will cause massive fluctuations in the performance and reliability of the laser cutter, significantly shortening the working life of the laser itself and can in some cases lead to a premature, catastrophic laser failure. For the laser to be cooled efficiently and effectively the coolant (water) must pass through a device specifically designed to control its temperature known as a chiller which will only reduce the coolant temperature after it reaches a set-point. It is therefore an ‘on-demand’ device, continually monitoring and keeping the coolant temperature constant. Most chillers use deionized water for the coolant, which helps to keep both the coolant and the internal workings of the laser clean. No matter what the coolant type the chiller must be regularly monitored and maintained to ensure that it is performing correctly. Periodically, the chiller should be drained, the internal workings of the laser flushed and the chiller replaced with new coolant. Care should be taken to ensure that any air filters/vents on the chiller are also regularly cleaned/replaced. DC lasers are a consumable part. When replacing the laser, the user should never use a chiller containing old coolant.

What are the classes of laser?

Class Range Description Example
Class 1 <1µw Non-hazardous Laser pointer, laser disc player
Class 1M <1µW • No hazardous to eyes or skin, unless collecting optics 1 mw
Class 2 • Visible 400 to 700nm
• Doesn’t cause damage unless one looks directly
He-Ne laser, some laser pointers
Class 2M Low powered (1mw) • Hazardous
• Wavelength 400to 700nm
Class 3 1 to 5 mw • Hazardous
• Visible and non-visible
Laser diodes
Class 3M >Class • Hazardous if eyes are exposed directly Present in CD and DVD writers
Class 4 >Class 3M (>500mw) High power lasers • Hazardous for skin and ayes
• Produce visible and man visible
CO2, Driver lasers, ND:Yag

Is laser sealed or gas flow through?

The laser used in our laser cutting machines is a sealed CO2 laser. Sealed lasers feature slab-discharge technology, which permanently confines the lasing gas mixture between two rectangular plate electrodes. These lasers require no replacement gas and no scheduled maintenance to the laser head for up to 25,000 hours of continuous operation. Consequently, sealed lasers eliminate maintenance downtime, thereby increasing productivity and reducing costs. Sealed lasers keep the beam path away from contaminants, ensuring a steady beam alignment and eliminating the need for cleaning. Sealed lasers also have lower electrical and cooling-water requirements than flow-through lasers that flow consumable gases through the laser head. The combination of these features results in an hourly operating cost of well under one dollar. By comparison, the hourly operating cost of flow-through lasers can be five to ten times higher.

Is beam alignment a problem?

Because we use a sealed laser, the beam path is concealed from contaminants and does not have to be taken apart to be cleaned, unlike lower end lasers where the beam path is exposed. This helps keep a steady beam alignment. Our machines are also very stable. After the initial installation, the laser cutting machine should not ever require a beam alignment.

What laser power is right for my application?

There are a variety of considerations when selecting the right laser power for your application. It is important to note that we use pulsed lasers that pulse ON/OFF thousands of times each second. The laser powers indicated are an Average with pulse ON power being three or more times the average. It is the Peak Pulse ON power that does the cutting. On many materials a higher Peak Pulse ON will result in quicker vaporization of material and a cleaner cut with less heat being imparted to the material near the cut. In laser cutting terms, high Peak Pulse power results in less Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) damage.

Fiber Laser – Fiber lasers utilize semiconductor diodes as the pumping mechanism and a doped fiber optic cable as the gain medium. Fiber Laser provides continuous output power because of the fiber’s high surface area to volume ratio, which allows efficient cooling. Fiber lasers are generally maintenance-free with an In-built air cooling system and a long service life of at least 25,000 laser hours.

Nd: YAG – Unlike fiber lasers, these laser types include the relatively expensive pump Diodes, which are wearing parts. They must be replaced after approx. 8,000 to 15,000 laser hours max. The crystal itself also has a shorter service life than a fiber laser. However, in the past Nd-YAG used flash lamp pumping where the lamp required changing after 700 hrs. of usage.

CO2 – Cooling the laser effectively and efficiently is a critical process. Failure to do so will cause massive fluctuations in the performance and reliability of the laser cutter, significantly shortening the working life of the laser itself and can in some cases lead to a premature, catastrophic laser failure. For the laser to be cooled efficiently and effectively the coolant (water) must pass through a device specifically designed to control its temperature known as a chiller which will only reduce the coolant temperature after it reaches a set-point. It is therefore an ‘on-demand’ device, continually monitoring and keeping the coolant temperature constant. Most chillers use deionized water for the coolant, which helps to keep both the coolant and the internal workings of the laser clean. No matter what the coolant type the chiller must be regularly monitored and maintained to ensure that it is performing correctly. Periodically, the chiller should be drained, the internal workings of the laser flushed and the chiller replaced with new coolant. Care should be taken to ensure that any air filters/vents on the chiller are also regularly cleaned/replaced. DC lasers are a consumable part. When replacing the laser, the user should never use a chiller containing old coolant.

Is laser safe to operate?

Yes, the laser is completely safe to operate. It is a Class 2 laser – 1mW CW Maximum 600-700 nm, which means that the laser is secured with interlock devices so it will not run with the doors of the system open. No special safety gear is required to run the laser. During laser cutting, there is no need for aligning or fastening the material. Users will never come into contact with open and moving machine parts.

Although Class I means there is little to no possibility of being injured by a laser beam, it is still necessary to take common sense safety precautions. For example, some materials create harmful gasses when laser cut. Other materials may be flammable if correct process techniques are not used. It is important to determine material safety by acquiring a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from material suppliers. Some materials may require a fume filtration machine and dust collector.

Required knowledge & safety guidelines for Laser use include:
1. Properties of laser light
2. Characteristics of each laser wavelength
3. Absorbing chromophores of each wavelength (selective photo thermolysis)
4. Dosimetry (power, power density, pulse parameters, fluence, energy density, etc.)
5. Spot size, delivery systems, instrumentation
6. Application (medical and surgical) techniques

The standard Class I enclosure is safety interlocked preventing any exposure to the laser beam, fully complying with 21 CFR Chapter 1, Subchapter J. The machine is so safe that no eye protection need be worn when operating the machine. All motors are completely disengaged when the safety cover is open for mechanical safety.

What is the laser life of the sources?

CO2 Laser: 10,000 – 20,000 Hrs. Sealed Tube Life
Fiber Laser: 45,000 Hrs. Life
Nd: YAG: 20,000 Hrs. Life

What are the radiation levels of lasers?

Radiation levels are also called Energy Levels. In laser system, we have mainly three energy levels.

TWO LEVEL LASER SYSTEM:
A sustainable laser beam can be achieved by using atoms that have two relatively stable state levels between their ground state and a higher energy excited state.
Two state radiation is not possible in laser systems because the energy being used to pump the atoms into the upper laser state has an equal probability of stimulating them back down, therefore it is not possible in general to pump more than half of the atoms into excited state.

THREE LEVEL LASER SYSTEM:
Most useful laser system involve three & four energy levels. In s-level, the atoms is first excited to a short lived high energy state that spontaneous drop to somewhat lower energy state with an unusual long life time called a metastable state. The metastable state building up a population inversion that can be further stimulated to emit radiation, dropping the species back to ground state. Most of the three-level lasers can only generate pulse;(The example of 3-level lasers is Ruby laser). Hence, to overcome this difficulty, we use four-level laser.

FOUR LEVEL LASER SYSTEM:
Four-level is low population of the lower laser energy level E2. To create population inversion, there is no need to pump more than 50% of the atoms to the upper laser level.
The rate of relaxation of the atoms from E2 to E1 should be faster than the rate of arrival of atoms from E4 or E2 .This has better efficiency of laser system thus, four-level laser is better than three level lasers.

How far laser beams can be fired?

It depends on produced power of the beam/composition of the atmosphere you send it through. Atmosphere absorbs light. And it also depends on the size of the beam.

What is the safety class of the machine (i, ii, iii, or iv)?

Class I is the safest type of laser machine, with a fully enclosed cutting area. All doors and covers have redundant safety interlocks that, when doors are opened, turn off power to the laser and place a shutter over the laser beam path. No eye protection or personal safety equipment is required when using this machine. Scantech laser cutting machines are Class I laser systems.

Class IV is an open machine, so safety equipment must be used in the laser hazard area. When a 4′ x 8′ extension table is added to a laser cutting machine, then our system goes from Class I to Class IV. The machine must be open to allow the pass through of the cutting bed.

Could a laser beam hurt or blind the user?

When used according to regulations, the standard Class I enclosure prevents any exposure to the laser beam. You do not even have to wear eye protection when operating the machine.

What is the best accuracy in microns can be achieved through different types of lasers?

Accuracy is depending on selection of laser power and optics for laser material processing applications. Minimum beam diameter which are achieved for laser material interaction is 100 microns to 200 microns.

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