Laser Cutting Machine: A Comprehensive Guide

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Publish Date: July 26, 2023

I. Introduction

Laser-cutting Technology has become an advanced processing method in recent years. A laser cutter utilizes a high-power laser beam to cut multiple materials and plays an essential role in metal processing, automation fabrication, aerospace, and electronics.

They have many edges over traditional cutting methods. For example, they allow for high accuracy and high repetition. Laser-cutting machines can reach micro-level accuracy and consistency, greatly improving product quality.

Possessing high flexibility, laser cutters can be adjusted flexibly so as to be applied widely. At the same time, the machine also allows for the accurate cutting of intricate patterns, delivering more possibilities for products.

To help manufacturing practitioners and individual hobbyists to understand laser cutting technology, master the key information for laser cutting machines, I write this comprehensive article of laser cutting machines for you .

The guide mainly pivots the definition, working principles, types, applications, brands and industry trends to explain comprehensively so that the article can serve as an authoritative, practical reference. I hope you can understand the article better after reading my article so as to improve enterprise competition.

II. What is a Laser Cutting Machine?

Definition of a laser cutting machine

A laser cutting machine is a kind of machine that utilizes high-power laser beams to cut multiple materials. They focus the laser onto the surface of the workpiece and utilize the high temperature to melt or evaporate the material. In this way, the cutting was finished accurately.

Here is a video for you to enjoy so as to have a deeper understanding.

Explanation of the laser cutting process

The cutting processes are as follows:

Step 1: The laser generator generates high-power laser beams which usually are infrared or ultraviolet.

Step 2: The laser beams which are focused into an extremely fine ray of light by an optical system will shoot accurately on the surface of the workpiece.

Step 3: The workpiece will be moved under the control of the CNC control system so that the laser beam can move along the designed paths as a way to finish the cutting.

Step 4: Assist gases will be sprayed to blow off the melt so as to ensure accuracy.

Key components of a laser cutting machine

The key components of a laser cutting machine will be introduced in the following:

  • Laser:
12 kw lasers

As the most essential part and the heart of a laser cutting macine, the laser is the core power source of high-power laser beams. Commonly, there are CO2 lasers and fiber lasers mostly applied in manufacturing. Though both have pros and cons, What merits attention is that fibre lasers perform better in terms of accuracy, efficiency, cutting quality, lifespan and maintenance demands.

  • Optical system:

An optical system incorporates reflective mirrors, focus lenses and other parts in order to focus laser beams onto the surface of the workpiece. The performance of the optical system directly influences the cutting accuracy and efficiency.

  • CNC control system:

The CNC control system is the main operating system which controls the movement of X, Y, and Z-axes. At the same time, it can also adjust the output power of laser cutters so as to ensue the cutting stability. You should notice that an advanced CNC control system improves the performance and stability of the machine.

  • Cutting head:
cutting head

The cutting head, as the core component of a laser cutting machine consists of a nozzle, focus lenses and a focus tracking system. The cutting head will move according to the designed paths, and its height will be adjusted according to different materials, thicknesses and cutting methods. Premium cutting heads ensure high speed and accuracy cutting.

  • Servo motor:
servo motor

The servo motor as the key driving part of a laser cutting machine controls the movements of mechanical components. High-quality servo motors can guarantee cutting precision, positioning speed and repeated positioning accuracy.

Generally, the core components of a laser cutting machine include the laser, optical system, CNC control system, cutting head and servo motor.

These machine tools’ precise coordination jointly decides the performance and cutting quality. Premium core components play an essential role in improving the laser cutting machine’s quality and accuracy.

III. Mainstream Types of Laser Cutting Machines

CO2 laser cutting machines

CO2 laser cutting machines use a mixture of carbide gases as the laser source. This kind of gas is activated by electricity so to generate laser beams. The wavelengths of the CO2 laser cutting machine are 10.6 microns, which belongs to the far-infrared spectral range.

These kinds of machines are wildly used in non-metal processing, such as wood, plastic, leather and paper, thanks to their low maintenance costs and high benefits.

However, there also remain difficulties when they cut some materials. Because metals may cause spark and ignition that damages the machine.

Fiber laser cutting machines

Fiber laser cutting machines utilize a special fiber laser to enlarge and transfer laser beams. The laser has a wavelength of 1.064 microns, which belongs to the near-infrared spectroscopy range. Fiber laser cutters are suitable for metal cutting, even for some reflective metals that are hard to process for CO2 laser cutting machines.

By virtue of their high efficiency, low energy consumption and maintenance costs, they boast higher cutting speed and accuracy, especially for thick metal sheets. In addition, laser cutting machines enjoying high-quality laser beams allow for preciser cutting and engraving.

Comparison of the two laser cutting machine types

SpecialtyCO2 laser cutting machineFiber laser cutting machine
Laser sourcemixture of carbide gasesfiber laser
wavelength10.6 microns(far-infrared spectral)1.06 micron(near-infrared spectral)
Applicablenon-metals(wood, plastic, leather) and thin non-metalsa mixture of carbide gases
Costrelatively lowrelatively high
Maintenancesimplelow costs
Energy consumptionhigherlower
Cutting speedmediumfast
AccuracymediumHigh
Applicable scenarionon-metals cutting and small batches of productionmetal cutting and industrial production
Laser beam qualitymediumhigh, for precise cutting and engraving

IV. Laser Cutting Process Optimization

Laser cutting process optimization is an important step to ensure high-quality cutting. Accurate control of cutting parameters can reduce material consumption and improve the comprehensive quality of the products. Here are a few key optimization steps:

Selecting the appropriate cutting parameters

Selecting the appropriate cutting parameters is one of the most preliminary steps in the cutting process. Cutting parameters incorporate laser power, cutting speed, focus point, and pass numbers. The higher the laser power, the faster the cutting speed. However, overly high power may burn or melt the material.

Therefore, laser power and cutting speed should be adjusted based on the thickness and type of the material so as to optimize the cutting.

Adjusting laser power, speed, and focus

Laser power and cutting speed should be adjusted based on the features and thickness of the materials. For example, cutting of relatively thick materials entails higher laser power and lower speed. Focus adjustment is with regard to the size and position of a laser focus point. Appropriate focus points ensure the minimum zone of focused laser power so to improve cutting efficiency and accuracy.

Controlling gas flow and pressure

While cutting, assist gas(such as oxygen, nitrogen and air) is used to blow the melt material produced in the cutting and to cool the working area and reduce oxidization. Gas flow and pressure must adjusted based on the material’s type and thickness. For example, nitrogen is usually used to cut stainless steel in order to prevent the surface from oxidization.

Minimizing heat-affected zone and distortion

A heat-affected zone(HAZ) is an area with a changed microstructure as a result of heat effect. Over-large heat-affected zones may affect the quality of materials. Optimized laser power and cutting speed can reduce HAZ so as to reduce heat deformation and concentrate stress.

In addition, proper cooling treatment can also help reduce heat-affected zones and avoid deformation.

Following the tips and steps above to optimize and adjust your machine, it’s absolutely that the accuracy and efficiency of the laser cutting can be improved and the processed materials’ quality and performance will be ensured.

V. Applications of Laser Cutting Machines

laser cutting machine

As a processing machine tool of high accuracy and efficiency, the laser cutter is a shiny star in many sectors. I would like to give you a thorough introduction to its glamorous achievements.

Metal fabrication

If you have read the above article, you certainly know that these magical processing machines are mostly used in metal processing, such as steel, aluminium and copper. High-accuracy cutting edges and smooth surfaces produced by laser cutters have significantly improved the product’s quality and productivity.

What’s more, high automation also saves many costs for manual operation and time.

Automotive industry

Actually, a laser cutter is also an efficient assistant in the automotive industry. The machine is used to cut the auto parts, such as the vehicle doors, windows and chassis. High efficiency and accuracy of which they are proud, have not only improved component precision but boosted productivity.

Laser cutters also possess other advantages in the industry. They can adapt to novel designs and materials while smoothing automotive fabrication.

Aerospace and defense

In high-end manufacturing, such as aerospace and defence, the indomitable fighter also establishes a foothold. The machine is used to cut and process high-performance materials, such as titanium alloys, nickel alloys, and composite materials which are mainly used to make aerospace components, motors and other pivotal parts.

By virtue of the contactless processing method provided by the laser cutting machine, deformation and wear are minimized. So they can meet the high requirements and standards to the industry.

Electronics and electrical engineering

In electronics and electrical engineering, the laser cutting machine allows for the precise cutting of circuit boards, electronic components and other tiny parts. Their capability of high-accuracy enables them to handle intricate patterns, which makes the laser cutting machine an integral of electronics and electrical engineering.

In addition, small heat-affected zones ensure the steady performance of electronic components without being affected.

Architectural and interior design

In relatively small industries, such as architectural and interior design, the machine plays a role. They can cut metal sheets, glass and other decor materials. Precise replication of intricate patterns in detail boosts designers to achieve special design ideas. They are also popular in rapid construction and custom design thanks to their high efficiency and accuracy.

Overall, widely and deeply applied in multiple industries, the laser-cutting machine serves as an indispensable part of modern industry due to its high accuracy, efficiency and flexibility. As technology develops, laser cutting machines will applied wider and bring many sectors with revolutionary changes.

VI.Comparing Laser Cutting Machine Brands

Leading manufacturers in the market

  • TRUMPF

Headquartered in Germany and as one of the leading manufacturers globally, TRUMPF enjoys a glamorous history and a good reputation for its innovative technology and high-performance devices. The company provides various solutions for laser cutting, including 2D and 3D laser cutting machines, which are applicable to all kinds of materials and thicknesses.

Besides, TRUMPF’s laser cutting machines featuring high precision, speed and reliability are widely applied in metal processing, automation fabrication and aerospace.

  • Bystronic

Bystronic, a renowned Switzerland manufacturer of laser cutting machines, famous for high-performance laser cutting equipment and automation solutions. Bystronic’s laser cutting machines are suitable for large batches of production with many types of machines including fiber laser cutting machine and tube laser cutting machine.

Bystronic’s machines are favoured by the market on the strength of their high accuracy, simple operation and low maintenance costs.

  • ADH Machine Tool

ADH Machine Tool, a famous manufacturing enterprise in China, carves out a niche in the international market by virtue of cost-effective solutions and rapid market response.

As one of the top 5 manufacturers in China, it provides several international cooperators with various fiber laser cutting machines, including Single Table Fiber Laser Cutting Machine, Double Table Fiber Laser Cutting Machine and Dual-use Fiber Laser Cutting Machine.

Take the advantages of price competitiveness, high-quality manufacturing and flexible customer service, ADH is well-received by customers and cooperators.

Pros and cons of different brands

BrandProsCons
TRUMPFadvanced technology
high efficiency and accuracy
well-known brand
higher costs
Bystronicsteady operation
high automation
suitable for large batches of production
relatively large initial investments
ADH Machine ToolHigh cost-effectiveness
simple operation and low maintenance costs
perfected after-sale service
technical accumulation is slightly inferior
compared to European brands

Customer reviews and industry reputation

  • TRUMPF: it enjoys an extremely high reputation globally. Their customers usually praise its reliability and the machine’s good performance.
  • Bystronic: the company receives positive reviews for the machine’s high efficiency and stable operation, especially for those applied in highly automated environments.
  • ADH Machine Tool: Popular in Asian and domestic markets, ADH wins claims from customers with high cost-effectiveness and active and rapid demand responses. Its machines are a wise choice for medium and small size enterprises.

VII. Laser Cutting Machine Hazards

laser cutting machine

Fire

The laser cutting machine utilizes a high-density laser beam.

When it is contacted with engraving materials, the exceptionally high temperature will show up, easily igniting the flammable materials.

Especially works on cutting or engraving materials like wood or some plastics.

It is essential to monitor the lase cutting machine and prepare the fire suppression equipment available.

Toxic Fumes and Gases

Some toxic fumes and dust may occur when the laser cutting machine works, depending mainly on the cut materials.

Appropriate ventilation or air filtration systems are pivotal for ensuring the operator’s safety and the people nearby.

Eye Injury

The laser-cutting machine emits intense light. If staring directly, your eyes may be hurt severely. So does the reflected light.

So the safety glasses specially designed for types of lasers should be worn during the operation and supervision of the machine.

Burn

The high-power lasers of laser cutting machines can lead to skin burning.

It is necessary for you to adopt proper handling and safety measurements to avoid laser beams and heated materials.

Electrical Hazards

Laser cutters require high-voltage electrical systems. Improper handling or maintenance may result in electric shock or other electrical hazards.

Following the manufacturer's guidelines and ensuring proper grounding and electrical safety measures are in place.

VIII. Laser Cutter Set Up

Choose the appropriate laser-cutting machine

Factors needed to be considered: some factors should be considered in purchasing the machine, including the types of material, the thickness of the material and the size of the available working area, power requirement, and your budget.

Installation of laser cutting machine

Requirements for ideal location and space: the machine should be installed in an area with good air ventilation and sufficient space for operators to walk. The surface on which the tool is placed should be stable and level.

Requirement for electrical: different laser cutting machine requires extra electricity. Make sure that your supplement for electricity is adequate and stable.

Calibration and initial setting

Align the laser: this is an essential part of the setting process, which can ensure accurate and effective cutting. The laser must align with the cutting surface inside the machine and mirror.

Test the laser: after aligning, you should test the machine on some sample material to check if it works.

Software setting

Links to software: most laser cutting machines are equipped with specific software and compatible with popular design software. Make sure the device can be appropriately linked and can be telescoped with software.

Fundamental software: learn how to operate the software. This includes knowing how to input design, adjust the setting of different materials and monitor the operation of the machine.

IX. Tips for Using Laser Cutting Machine

laser cutting machine

Before Use:

  • Before using the machine, all the operators should accept training on potential risks, operation procedures, and safety precaution measurements. What’s more, the detailed procedure of the specific machine and interlocks should be covered. New operators must undergo training and refresher courses at predetermined intervals.
  • Check the filter, and replace it according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
  • Verify all are aware of potential risks, controlling measurements, proper use of operation procedures and equipment of manufacture (including materials allowed to be cut), emergency procedures, and equipment cleaning.
  • Wear regulative PPE. The safety glasses can protect the eyes from particles and debris damage. Wear heatproof gloves that can protect the skin from burns. And face mask and respirator can be used to isolate toxic fumes.
  • Ensure that there is no flammable material near the laser cutting machine.
  • Install the fire extinguisher on the wall near the laser-cutting machine. The fire extinguisher must be mounted to a place that is easy access to touch. Meanwhile, the channel of the fire extinguisher can not be blocked by the on the ground, or another machine sits in front of it.
  • Know how the laser pulse rate affects the chance of fire and the resolution of the cut. The laser cutting machine uses pulse firing mode to increase its climax light energy. A pulsed laser provides a short pulse under higher power instead of emitting a constant power output. The laser can “store” the energy between pulses. Thus the slower pulse speed can generate more power. On the contrary, the higher pulse rate features lower climax energy. Therefore, lower pulse frequencies have a higher risk of causing a fire in the material being cut.

During Use:

  • Please always follow the manufacturer's specifications when operating the laser cutting machine. The manufacturer knows the machine's restriction design and risks. Each device has interlocks and design functions to ensure the user and equipment's safety. After buying the tooling, please read the safety and operation manual thoroughly. If the manufacturer suggests restrictions and emphasizes the specific risks, please pay more attention and obey these rules.
  • Only the material approved by the laser cutting machine manufacturer can be used. Some materials are unsafe for laser cutting machines for two reasons: the risk of fire is high, and another is releasing toxic fumes when contacted with lasers. So, some precautious measurements should be taken before cutting, and analysis of each material is necessary.
  • Ensure all the covers are correctly positioned, and do not avoid the safety interlocks inside the laser cutting machine. The safety interlocks are indispensable for their functions. The laser is usually classified as Class 3B or Class 4. If you see the laser directly (sometimes even indirectly), your eyes will be hurt or lead to skin damage or fire. Owing to the interlock setting inside the laser cutting machine, the laser cutting machine can be sold as Class 1. This means the device complies with international safety regulations. Thus, the buyers will not contact dangerous laser machines.
  • Leave the material on the cutting bed until it is cool enough to touch.
  • If the air filter or exhaust system fails, please stop the operation immediately and then inform your supervisor or workshop coordinator.
  • Keep a diary. The blog can contain who uses the laser cutting machine, cutting time, and cutting material. It is essential to record which materials are cut and who cut them. Some materials may leave flammable debris. What's more, if any tooling fails, you can ask the last one who uses the machine so that the new operator can know about the previous machine's previous work. The working time of the laser cutting machine is also very essential. Thus the device can be maintained regularly.
  • Do not keep the machine working under no supervision. Due to fire risk, supervision is needed when operating. There is an external fire possibility when high-power lasers are used.
  • Due to fire risks, the laser cutting machine should not be applied to the wood surface. Put the laser cutting machine on solid, non-flammable surfaces like concrete and steel decks.

After Use:

After using the machine, please clean the debris and the flammable materials from the laser cycle.

It is very important to absorb debris from the cutting head and inside of the laser cutting machine regularly to avoid fire hazards.

Dust accumulation inside laser cutting machine housing will significantly increase the fire hazard.

The dust particles are tiny, and thus have a large surface area to volume ratio.

This allows for mass air(oxygen) to always be in contact with particles. Thus, the dust is easier to flame compared with solids of the same materials.

Do's and Don'ts:

Donts

Please do not modify or limit any safety function of the laser systems.

Please do not directly observe through the optical equipment.

Dos

Before using, please check the machine inside visually. If there is debris and residue, please clean the tray.

Keep a first aid kit available and within easy reach. It is used to heat burning.

Warning signs are necessary to inform about exposure risks during use and maintenance.

laser cutting machine

X. Conclusion

In the article, a comprehensive guide is provided for you as a reference to learn what a laser cutting machine is, where a laser cutting machine is applied, and what to consider when choosing the most suitable one, etc. I hope this article might help you.

By the way, if you are considering buying laser cutting machines, ADH, as one of the leaders in China in the industry, is an intelligent choice. Before deciding to buy the products, you are welcome to view product page to learn more or get a quote.

safe guide for laser cutting machine

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