Troubleshooting Common Laser Cutting Machine Problems

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Publish Date: April 30, 2024

I.Introduction

In today’s metal processing industry, laser-cutting machines have become indispensable equipment because of their high efficiency, precision and adaptability. They utilize high-power density laser beams to cut and engrave multiple materials, playing an essential role in automotive, aerospace and precise mechanical manufacturing.

Furthermore, laser cutters ensure efficiency, product quality, and consistency, serving as one of the core cutting technologies in modern manufacturing.

However, despite the ever-advanced laser cutting technology, there are problems arising from time to time during the real operation course. For example, inaccurate focusing lenses may cause unsmooth edges, and unsteady laser power may cause inconsistent cutting speed and incomplete cutting of materials.

During cutting, these issues not only waste materials but also increase costs, delay delivery time, and even impact market competitiveness. Therefore, timely recognition and resolution of common problems in laser cutting is pivotal in ensuring smooth production procedures and improving product quality.

The article will introduce some common issues during laser cutting machine running and operation in detail and provide professional revolution plans so as to assist operators and maintenance engineers in solving problems efficiently, ensuring steady operation and maximizing productivity.

II.Understanding Laser Cutting Machines

Basic Components

A laser cutter’s basic components incorporate a laser generator, a cutting head, a control system, a transmission system(optical system), an assist system and a cooling system. These components interact with each other to precisely control the position and movement of laser beams and then to finish the precise cutting of materials.

Laser generator:

As the core component, the laser generator generates laser beams.

Cutting head:

cutting head

It contains focusing lenses and nozzles to concentrate laser beams and lead assist gases to cutting areas.

Control system:

As the brain of a laser cutting machine, the control system controls the machine’s movement and laser emission and ensures accurate cutting.

Transmission system(optical system):

For CO2 laser cutting machines, laser beams will be led to the cutting head through reflective mirrors and for fiber laser cutting machines, they will be transmitted by fiber optic cables.

Assist gas:

Assist gases are used to blow the melt and clean the cutting areas so as to smooth the cutting course.

Cooling system:

Usually, it’s the chiller unit to cool the laser generator and other components so as to keep the machine’s steady operation.

The interaction of these components finishes the precise cutting through the accurate adjustment of laser power, cutting speed, focusing, and pressure of assisting gases.

How They Interact with Each Other

Let‘s view a short video to learn its working processes first:

How they interact with each other? What’s the procedure of the laser cutting? Here is step by step introduction of a laser cutting machine’s working procedures.

Step one: laser generation

As core components, lasers generate laser beams. Lasers excited by electricity or other light sources generate work substances, such as CO2 or fiber. Laser beams possess high levels of monochromaticity, directionality, and brightness.

Step two: laser transmission

Generated laser beams will be concentrated into a small light spot through a series of optical systems, including reflective mirrors and focusing lenses. As for CO2 laser cutting machines, laser beams will be transmitted by reflective mirrors. While in fiber laser cutting machines, lasers will be transmitted on the cutting head directly through fiber cables.

Step three: Focus and material processing

Laser beams will be concentrated in a small spot with extremely high-density laser power, which can heat the material into evaporation points. During the course, the material will be melted, evaporated or burned to the ignition point and form a small hole. With the relative movement of the cutting head, the small hole will be lined as a narrow silt according to the cutting direction of the cutting head.

Step Four: Assist gas

During cutting, the cutting head will inject assist gases, such as oxygen, nitrogen and air, which can not only blow the melt off and keep the cut clean but also participate in a chemical reaction. In oxygen cutting, for instance, oxygen reacts with hot metal to generate more heat, accelerating the cutting process.

Step Five: Control system

The CNC control system controls the whole cutting process. Users can design the moving path of the cutting head and parameters through the program, such as laser power, cutting speed and focal length, which enables laser cutters to cut intricate patterns with high accuracy.

All the components and working principles of a laser cutter ensure its high efficiency and accuracy in industrial production and make it a pivotal machine, no matter whether it is in metal and non-metal processing.

Mainstream Types of Laser Cutting Machines

There are two mainstream types of laser cutting machines: CO2 laser cutting machines and fiber laser cutting machines.

CO2 laser cutters

CO2 laser cutting machines utilize gas as a laser which is produced in electrical discharges by mixing CO2 gas with other gases (such as nitrogen and helium). With a wavelength of 10.6 micrometres, they are suitable for non-metal cutting, such as wood, plastic, fabric and acrylic.

High-power CO2 laser cutting machines can also cut metals. Basically, CO2 laser cutters can produce smooth and clean cutting surfaces with high verticality, suiting materials with high requirements for cutting accuracy.

Fiber laser cutters

Fiber laser cutting machines use solid lasers generated by mixing fiber cables. With a wavelength of 1.06 micrometers, fiber laser cutters possess higher electricity-light transformation rates, lower energy consumption and better laser beams.

With a compact structure and free from maintenance, they are suitable for cutting high-reflective and conductor-grade metal materials. Due to their high speed and efficiency and low absorption rate, fiber laser cutters are mainly used for metal processing.

Typical applications and materials:

CO2 laser cutting machine:

They are suitable for non-metal cutting, such as wood, plastic, fabric and acrylic, and other high-accuracy metal cutting.

Fiber laser cutting machine:

They are mainly used for metal cutting, such as steel, copper, and aluminum, and are specially applied for metal sheet processing.

III.Common Problems in Laser Cutting Machines

laser cutting machine

Although laser cutting machines are widely used in various sectors by virtue of high efficiency and precision, they may break down at times while running due to many factors such as materials, technology and software.

In the following chapter, common problems and solutions will be dicussed in detail interms of material-related issues, technical difficulties and software and control system errors.

Common problems and solutions

Material-related Issues:

Problems caused by using inappropriate materials (reflectivity, thickness). During the laser cutting, the selection of materials matters. Inappropriate materials will lead to over-high reflective rates and improper thickness, impacting cutting quality.

Reflective Material Issue:

High-reflective materials, such as copper and aluminum alloy, may cause laser reflection to damage the cutting machine or impact cutting quality. Therefore, the solution is to use specialized laser-absorbing materials or adjust the parameters, such as lowering laser power and increasing assist gas pressure.

Material Thickness Issue:

Laser-cutting machines have certain requirements for the material thickness. Too thin or too thick materials will impact the cutting effect. For example, materials that are too thin entail lower laser power so as to avoid burning through materials.

Generally, when cutting high-reflective materials, we should choose proper lasers and cutting parameters or adopt specialized reflection suppression technology. Adjusting laser power and cutting speed according to material thickness in order to ensure cutting effect. Using professional materials and selection guides to take tests so as to choose the most appropriate material type and thickness for laser cutting.

Technical Difficulties

When running laser cutting machines, you may encounter many technical problems, like beam misalignment, lens contamination, and power inconsistencies. Don’t worry; I will provide you with a step-by-step guide to solve the problems.

Beam misalignment:

Beam misalignment may be caused by improper optical path calibration or component wear. You can recalibrate the optical path to ensure that laser beams can irradiate the workpiece accurately.

Lens contamination:

Lens contamination may cause the blurred laser focal length, greatly influencing cutting quality. Therefore, it’s crucial to replace damaged or worn lenses.

Power inconsistencies: The problem may be caused by laser pipe aging or energy supply issues. We can change the laser pipe or adjust the energy source to solve the problem.

Software and Control System Errors

The software and control system is the brain of a laser cutting machine. Any errors may cause operation failure.

Common problems:

Fault software settings may cause the laser cutters to work in the wrong place or be unable to cut along the designed paths. So when you encounter the issue, you should check and make sure that the size of the workpiece in the design software is consistent with the dimension set of the laser setting. It’s the first step to solve the error.

Software maintenance and updating:

Updating software regularly and fixing known vulnerabilities and errors can ensure the steady operation of laser cutting machines. At the same time, check the USB or internet connection so as to make sure data transmission is not subject to interference.

Although laser cutters are machines of high efficiency and accuracy, we may encounter multiple problems. Understanding these common problems and solutions can help us prevent and solve breakdowns so as to make sure steady operation and high-quality output.

IV. Preventative Maintenance Strategies

laser cutting machine

Preventive maintenance is crucial for the efficient operation of laser cutting machines. Preparing and implementing a maintenance plan can significantly reduce machine breakdowns and prolong machine lifespan. The following are some essential preventive strategies.

Routine Maintenance Checklist

Check and cleaning:

The key components of laser cutting machines should be checked regularly, such as focus lenses, reflective mirrors and cutting heads, to make sure they are clean and free from contamination. Using clean and fiber-free cloth and specialized detergent.

Check gas supply:

Sufficient assist gases with steady pressure should be ensured.

Weakly maintenance tasks

Check optical system:

Check the calibration of the laser optical path system to ensure that the path of the laser beam is correct and unbiased.

Check and clean the fan:

Clean the fan and exhaust system inside the machine to prevent dust accumulation from affecting the cooling effect.

Monthly maintenance task:

Check the mechanical transmission system:

Check and adjust the tension of guide rails, gears, and belts so as to ensure smooth and noise-free transmission system.

Software updation:

Updating the control software of laser cutting machines and installing the latest version to fix known loopholes and improve performance.

Importance of professional servicing

Although daily and periodical maintenance can be finished by operators, some intricate issues or regular deep maintenance should be implemented by professionals in the field. For instance, laser source maintenance, calibration and overhaul of the whole machine should be done by technicians with professional knowledge and tools.

Training and Operational Best Practices

Proper training to minimize operational errors:

Operators should be trained regularly about use, maintenance, and safety so that they can acquire the newest operation procedures and maintenance knowledge. Operators should be encouraged to read and remember the operation manual of laser cutting machines. The manuals commonly incorporate correct machine operation methods and guides for troubleshooting.

Best practices for operators to follow:

Avoid overload operation: choose appropriate laser parameters based on the materials’ thicknesses and qualities and avoid damaging machines caused by overloading.

Give feedback in a timely manner: If operators encounter problems or abnormal situations, they should give feedback to the maintenance team in time so as not to turn small issues into major failures.

Overall, the implementation of preventive methods can minimize the failure rate of laser cutting machines, ensure productivity and product quality, and prolong machines’ lifespan.

V. Advanced Troubleshooting Techniques

As machines for precise processing, they may have many problems in operation. Advanced troubleshooting techniques can help operators find out problems and reasons so as to take effective methods .

Diagnostic Tools

Diagnostic tools for laser cutting machines mainly incorporate multipurpose testing instruments, specialized software and built-in self-diagnostic systems, which can test the core paraments of laser powers, optical path alignment and electrical systems. I will introduce the three diagnostic tools in detail.

Multipurpose testing instruments:

Multipurpose testing instruments, such as Laser power meters and multifunctional electric meters, are mainly used to measure laser output power and electrical connection status.

Specialized software:

Many laser cutting machines are equipped with specialized diagnosis software that can test the machine comprehensively, including software errors and hardware failure through a computer connection.

Built-in self-diagnostic systems:

Modern laser cutting machines are normally equipped with a self-diagnostic system that can carry out self-diagnosis and report fault codes to locate problems rapidly.

How to Use Them

When using diagnostic tools, we should set basic settings according to the operation manual or manufacturers’ instructions. Then, choose proper diagnostic tools based on encountered problems to have a test. For instance, if a laser cutting machine doesn’t perform well, a laser power output meter should be used to test if the output power is fine.

Case one:

The intermittent cutting phenomenon occurs as a laser cutter in the cutting process. Using multipurpose electric meters can detect loosened electricity source connections. So, after fastening the connections, the problem is solved.

Case two:

The decreasing accuracy of a laser cutting machine can be analyzed by specialized software. After testing, the optical paths are adjusted according to software instructions. As a result, the cutting accuracy is restored.

When to Call a Professional

Although many problems can be solved by the methods above, sometimes, we need to turn to professionals for help:

Scenarios where professional help is necessary:

Intricate hardware failures: such as laser damage, main control board malfunctions. These problems should be solved by professionals with professional knowledge and tools.

Repetitive issues: if a problem occurs repetitively, there may be more serious failures, which require technicians to have thorough diagnoses.

How to choose the right service provider:

When choosing the service provider, many factors should be considered:

Professional Qualifications: service providers with official certifications and good reputations should be chosen.

Service experiences: understanding the experience and cases of service providers in laser cutting machine maintenance is important.

Response time and service quality: choose providers who can respond quickly and offer high-quality services.

VI. Conclusion

In the article, the common failures and issues of laser cutting machines are explained in detail so as to serve as a reference for enterprises and individual hobbyists. In addition, an important factor you should notice is the selection of the right service providers. A service provider can reduce the repair and maintenance costs of a laser cutting machine and prolong its lifespan which can maximize the benefits for your companies or businesses.

Customized fiber laser cutting solutions at affordable prices provided by ADH Machine Tool, from entry-level to high-end machines.

For more specific configurations check our laser cutting machines for sale.

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