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Laser cutting is a process that uses a laser to cut different materials for industrial and more artistic applications, such as etching. Continue reading this article to learn more about laser cutting. We hope this has been helpful to you.
How does laser cutting work?
Types of laser cutting
Laser cutting uses a high-power laser to guide the beam or material through an optical and computer numerical control (CNC). Typically, the process uses a motion control system to follow the CNC or G-code of the pattern to be cut into the material. The focused laser beam burns, melts, evaporates or is blown away by a gas jet to leave a high-quality surface finish edge.
The laser beam is produced by stimulating the laser material through an electrical discharge or lamp inside a closed container. The laser material is amplified by internal reflection through a local reflector until its energy is sufficient for it to escape as a coherent monochromatic stream of light. This light is focused in the working area by mirrors or optical fibers that guide the beam through the lens, thereby enhancing the beam.
At its narrowest point, the laser beam is typically less than 0.0125 inches (0.32 mm) in diameter, but depending on the thickness of the material, the kerf width may be as small as 0.004 inches (0.10 mm).
If the laser cutting process needs to start anywhere other than the edge of the material, a perforation process is used, where a high-power pulsed laser punches holes in the material, requiring, for example, 5-15 seconds to burn through a 0.5 in.-thick (13 mm) stainless steel sheet.
The process can be broken down into three main technologies - CO 2 lasers (for cutting, drilling and engraving) as well as neodymium (Nd) and neodymium yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG), which come in the same style as Nd for high energy, low repetition drilling and Nd:YAG for very high power drilling and engraving.
All types of lasers can be used for welding.
CO 2 lasers involve passing an electric current through a gas mixture (DC excitation) or, more popular today, using the newer RF energy technology (RF excitation.) The RF method has external electrodes, thus avoiding the problems associated with electrode corrosion and electrode material plating on glassware and optics, and DC uses electrodes inside the cavity.
Another factor affecting laser performance is the type of airflow. common variants of CO 2 lasers include fast axial flow, slow axial flow, transverse flow and flat plates. Fast axial flow uses a mixture of carbon dioxide, helium and nitrogen circulated at high speed by a turbine or blower. Transverse flow lasers use a simple blower to circulate the gas mixture at a lower speed, while slat or diffusion resonators use a static gas field that does not require pressurization or a glass vessel.
Depending on the system size and configuration, different techniques are also used to cool the laser generator and external optics. Waste heat can be transferred directly to the air, but usually a coolant is used. Water is a frequently used coolant and is usually circulated through the heat transfer or cooling system.
An example of water-cooled laser processing is the laser microjet system, which couples a pulsed laser beam with a low-pressure water jet to direct the beam in the same manner as an optical fiber. Water also has the advantage of removing debris and cooling the material, while other advantages of "dry" laser cutting include high cutting speeds, parallel kerfs and omnidirectional cutting.
Fiber lasers are also becoming increasingly popular in the metal cutting industry. This technology uses a solid gain medium rather than a liquid or gas. The laser is amplified in the glass fiber, producing a spot size much smaller than that achieved with CO 2 technology, making it ideal for cutting reflective metals.
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