Laser Cutting Machine Description: A Detailed Guide

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Publish Date: May 15, 2024

I.Introduction

Since the laser cutting machine was invented in the 1960s, its application has widened into automotive, aerospace, electronics and other industries.

For example, in automotive fabrication, laser cutting technology is used to produce components, such as body panels, chassis and exhaust systems, to improve efficiency and accuracy. In the aerospace industry, the technology, depending on its premium performance, plays a pivotal role in key components manufacturing, such as aircraft skin, wings and engine blades.

In the article, the working principles, basic components, applicable materials, advantages and applications of laser cutting machines so as to deeply introduce this game-changing technology.

II.How Do Laser Cutting Machines Work?

Here is a short video for you to enjoy the fascinating capabilities of the laser cutting machines:

Operating principles

Laser cutting machines utilize high power-density laser beams to irradiate on the workpiece surface, causing the materials to melt, evaporate and undergo chemical reactions.At the same time, the molten materials will blown off by high-speed airflow, and the cutting is finished.

Generally, laser cutting can be divided into 4 parts:

  • Irradiated by laser beams, the material surface absorbs heat rapidly.
  • The material, with its temperature exceeding the melting point, starts to melt, forming a melt pool.
  • As the temperature rises, the material will evaporate and form steam, and the molten materials will be blown off under the action of steam recoil and high-speed cutting airflow.
  • Laser beams move along the cutting path and form continuous narrow slits in the material. In this way, the cutting process is finished.

Basic components

Typically, a laser cutting machine contains the following components:

  • Lasers
  • An optical system
  • A cutting head
  • A CNC control system
  • An assist system
how a laser cutter works

Lasers:

As a light source which provides high power and quality laser beams, lasers commonly include CO2 lasers and fiber lasers.

Laser source

Laser source

An optical system:

The system, including reflective mirrors, focus lenses and other components, focuses the laser beams precisely on the workpiece surface.

Cutting head:

It outputs laser beams and cutting gases coaxially and controls their relative movements and position with the workpiece.

cutting head

Cutting head

A CNC control system:

It controls the moving paths and speed of the cutting head so as to cut automatically.

CNC contril system

CNC control system

An assist system:

It includes the cooling system, smoke exhaust system, gas supply system, and other parts to ensure steady and high-efficiency operation.

Among these components, lasers as the core factor, directly decides cutting quality and efficiency. By the virtue of high-efficiency and quality, these magic machines is expanding their horizon in industrial manufacturing, boosting laser cutting technology development and industrial development.

Laser cutting process step-by-step

Take a fiber laser cutting machine as an example:

laser cutting machine
  • Put workpieces to be cut on the workbench and set cutting parameters, such as laser power, cutting speed, and air pressure, based on material types and thickness.
  • Activate the laser, the laser beam is transmitted through the optical fiber, collimated by a collimating mirror, focused by a focusing lens and emitted from the nozzle.
  • The cutting head will move in two dimensions relative to the workpieces under the control of a CNC control system, and the high power density of the laser beam’s focal point will melt and evaporate the materials.
  • The cutting gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen, will be sprayed out rapidly through nozzles to blow the molten materials and produce smooth cuts.
  • The cutting head will move according to the designed path and speed so as to cut out the required geometric shapes on the workpieces.
  • After the cutting was finished, turn off the lasers and use compressed air to blow the dust and splatter off the cutting head and optical components so as to prepare for the next time.

激光设备各类行业新闻_【莱塞激光】_第36页

It’s obvious that laser cutting is an intricate process, entailing a laser, an optical system, a CNC control system, a cooling system, and other components. At the same time, the setting of cutting parameters should based on processing materials, thickness, geometric patterns and other factors.

Only by understanding their working principles and controlling parameters can we fully leverage the highly efficient, accurate and flexible quality of laser cutting machines.

III.Types of Laser Cutting Machines

According to the types of lasers, laser cutting machines can be divided into three main categories: CO2 laser cutting machines, fiber laser cutting machines and YAG laser cutting machines.

Different machines vary in processing principles, applicable materials and cutting performance. Let’s unveil the secrets of these machines.

 laser cutters

CO2 laser cutters

As one of the widest-applied laser cutting machines, they adopt CO2 gases as working substances and are activated by energy to produce infrared beams with a wavelength of 10.6μm.

Besides, CO2 lasers perform well in absorbing non-metals, so that they are suitable for wood, acrylic, glass, paper, fabric, plastic and leather.

Pros of CO2 laser cutters:

  • Wide application; the non-metal cutting thickness can reach up to 60mm.
  • Narrow slits, small heat-affected zone, and high-quality cutting surface.
  • High-quality laser beams; consistent and steady output.
CO2 laser cutter

Cons of CO2 laser cutters:

  • Not suitable for metal cutting, especially for materials with high reflection rates.
  • Lower cutting speed and efficiency in thick board cutting
  • Intricate optical system, entailing regular maintenance and calibrating.
  • High energy consumption with electricity-light conversion rate only at 10 to 15%.

Fiber laser cutters

Using optical fibers doped with rare earth elements as the gain medium, fiber laser cutters are pumped by semiconductor laser diodes, generating a near-infrared light beam with wavelengths of 1.06 to1.07μm.

Lasers in this band have an extremely high absorption rate for metals. Hence fibre laser cutting machines are specifically used for cutting metal materials, especially stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminium, copper, etc.

ULFT Dual-use Fiber Laser Cutting Machine

ULFT Dual-use Fiber Laser Cutting Machine

Pros of fiber laser cutters:

  • Fiber optic transmission with a simple optical path entails no maintenance.
  • A small focused light spot with high power and density delivers high efficiency.
  • With the electricity-light conversion r ate reaching 30 to 50 percent, they save energy and are environmentally friendly.
  • Solid-state design, compact size, high reliability
  • Materials with high reflectivity, such as aluminum, copper, and brass that can be processed with high reflectivity.

Compared with CO2 laser cutters, fiber laser cutters’ cutting speed for metal materials is 2 to 3 times that of CO2 laser cutters and is hardly affected by material reflectivity. However, they have limitations on non-metal cutting, and the costs are high.

YAG laser cutters

The YAG laser cutting machine is a type of solid-state laser cutting equipment based on the yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) crystal doped with neodymium ions (Nd3+). Its working wavelength is close to that of fiber lasers, also around 1.06μm, hence the YAG laser cutting machine is primarily used for metal cutting as well.

YAG laser cutters

Pros of YAG laser cutters:

  • Low costs with high cost-effectiveness
  • Allow for highly reflective materials, such as aluminum and copper.
  • High-quality laser beams produce a perfect cutting effect.
  • With low power, they are mainly used for thinboardcutting thickness and speed performance cutting.

Cons of CO2 laser cutters:

  • Pump diodes and crystals are both consumables with a short service life.
  • The photoelectric conversion efficiency is low, generally less than 3%.
  • Limited power, their performance in cutting thickness and speed are not as good as fiber laser cutters.
  • Intricate structures with high maintenance costs.

Comparison:

Before we dive in, you might want a video to enjoy!

Types of Laser Cutting Machines
ComparisonCO2 Laser Cutting MachineFiber Laser Cutting MachineYAG Laser Cutting Machine
Active MediumCO2 gasRare-earth doped fiberNd-doped YAG crystal
Output Wavelength10.6μm1.06μm1.06μm
Suitable MaterialsMainly non-metals, such as wood, acrylic, glass, paper, fabric, plastic, leather, etc.Primarily metals, especially highly reflective materials; it can also cut some non-metalsMainly cuts metals, such as aluminum, copper and other non-ferrous metals; can also cut non-metals
Cutting Thickness<12mm preferred, slow cutting speed for thick plates<12mm, cutting speed for thin sheets is 2-3 times that of CO2Low power, only suitable for cutting sheets below 8mm
Beam QualityPoor, larger spot size, not suitable for large-area cuttingExcellent, small spot size, high power density, can achieve high-precision cuttingGood, can achieve high-precision cutting
Cutting PrecisionMediumHighHigh
Cutting SpeedMediumFast, several times that of CO2Slower than fiber, faster than CO2
Electro-Optical Efficiency10-15%Above 30%3-5%
Power ConsumptionHighLow, about 1/4 of CO2Higher than fiber
Maintenance CostHigh, optical components and RF tubes need frequent replacementLow, basically maintenance-freeMedium, pump sources need regular replacement
Equipment CostHigh, about 350,000-1,000,000 CNYMedium, about 200,000-600,000 CNYLow, mature technology, about 100,000-300,000 CNY
Operating CostHigh, about 20 CNY/hourLow, about 4 CNY/hourHigher than fiber
Application IndustriesAdvertising decoration, garment processing, woodworking furniture, crafts, etc.Mainly metal processing such as automotive manufacturing, electronics, precision machinery, etc.Metal engraving and marking, non-metal thin sheet cutting

In summary, CO2 laser cutting machines are suitable for cutting non-metals, fiber laser cutting machines are more suitable for cutting metals, while YAG laser cutting machines have a moderate cost-performance ratio and can be used as entry-level equipment.

Users should weigh their choices based on factors above. With technology advancements, fiber laser cutting machines are expected to replace CO2 laser cutting machines to be the mainstream in more fields.

VI.Applications Across Industries

As a highly accurate and efficient processing tool, laser cutting machines are used in many sectors. The article will introduce laser cutting machines’ applications in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, and medical industries.

Automotive

laser cutting machine
  • Precision parts

Laser cutting machines, mainly used for precision parts manufacturing in automotive industry, can ensure cutting efficiency and surface quality of precise components. For example, vehicle brake pads and other core components require high-precision cutting so as to make sure their performance and security.

  • Interior parts

Interior parts processing can be also achieved by laser cutters. Interior parts normally entail intricate and high-quality surface processes, which can be met by laser cutters through their flexibility and accuracy. In addition, laser-cutting machines can provide customized design services to meet the demands of various customers.

Aerospace

laser cutting machine
  • Airframe components

In aerospace, laser cutting machines can be used to manufacture airframe components, which have high requirements on product weight and strength. Laser cutters can ensure material performance is not affected through their high-quality cutting and small heat-affected zones.

  • Engine parts

Engine parts can be produced by laser cutting machines. These components commonly require high precision and complex geometric patterns. The requirements of which can be met by laser cutting machines with high precision and speed.

In addition, some materials, such as titanium alloy and nickel-based alloys, that are hard-processed by machines can be handled by laser cutters.

Electronics

laser cutting machine
  • Circuit boards

Laser cutting machines are mainly used for circuit board cutting. Circuit boards as the main components of electronics, their manufacturing precision and quality directly decide the lifespan and performance of electronics, and thus laser cutters allow for high-efficiency manufacturing for circuit boards.

  • Enclosures and heatsinks

Although heatsinks require intricate patterns and high-quality surface processes, laser cutters can meet the demands depending on their high precision and flexibility. In addition, laser cutting machines can handle the complicated structures of radiators, enhancing their heat dissipation performance.

Medical

laser cutting machine
  • Implants

Laser cutting machines are mainly used for all kinds of implants in the medical industry, such as joint replacement and dental implants. Besides, they can also cut complex patterns and shapes from biocompatible materials to ensure the precise fitting of implants and their fine integration with patients.

  • Surgical Instruments

Laser cutting machines can be used to produce surgical instruments. Laser cutting machine’s quality of high-quality and speed can meet the requirements of surgical instruments and ensure their performance and reliability. In addition, customized designs can meet the requirements of various surgeries.

V.Conclusion

The article discusses in detail the working principles, basic components, differences between the three types of laser cutters, and their applications. Laser cutters, by virtue of their high accuracy, speed, and quality, will lead the manufacturing market in the future.

If you are interested in specific types and functionalities of laser cutting machines, we invite you to visit our product page. We offer a variety of laser cutting machines, including single-table, dual-table, dual-use, and specialized tube cutting machines.

Whether you need to cut metal sheets or tubes, our company has the right solution for you. Hope you find the equipment that best meets your needs.

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