Laser Cutting Machine Uses Explained

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Publish Date: April 11, 2024

I. Introduction

Laser-cutting machines can be applied to almost every industrial manufacturing sector, such as vehicle fabrication, aviation and aerospace, electronics and appliances, kitchenware manufacturing, fitness equipment, advertising, and metal processing.

It can handle various metal and non-metal materials through its great adaptability.

With edges in many aspects, laser cutting machines are becoming an integral part of the industry, serving as advanced equipment that many competitors are competing to adopt.

As technology develops, the future of machine application will grow wider. It plays an essential role in promoting transformation and upgrading the manufacturing industry. It’s worthwhile exploring the diverse use of laser cutting machines.

II. Understanding Laser Cutting Machines

Explanation of the basic principles

A laser cutter is a kind of machine that cuts various materials using the heat energy of laser beams. Its operation processes are that laser beams, firstly, generated by a laser cutting machine will be focused as a light spot on the surface of the workpiece by optical system.

Then, due to high power density, the areas irradiated by a laser beam will be heated so quickly as to be evaporated or melted.

The consistently moving laser beam assisted by aid gases links the light spots into a narrow slit to achieve cutting.

Generally, laser cutting machines incorporate CO2 laser cutting machines, YAG laser cutting machines, and fiber laser cutting machines. Let’s view a video together to see how it works.

Components of a laser cutting machine

A laser cutting machine comprises a laser, optical system, cutting head, workbench, CNC system, auxiliary equipment, and computer system.

Laser:

As a core component, lasers can generate laser beams with high power density. They usually include CO2 gas laser cutters and fiber laser cutters.

Optical system:

As a key component of a laser cutting machine, the optical system directly impacts the processing accuracy and cutting quality. Therefore, its performance matters.

Its main functions are reshaping, collimating, and focusing the origin laser beams generated by lasers so that a light spot with high power density is formed on the surface of the workpiece to achieve accurate processing.

It contains 5 main components: reflector, focusing lens, collimator, protective lenses, beam shaper, and optical path adjustment mechanism.

The reflector:

It can change the laser beam's transfer direction, leading it into the cutting head.

Focusing lenses:

Focusing lenses are placed in the cutting head and used to focus a parallel laser beam into small light spots. Thelens’s focal lengths affect the spot size and, thus, the cutting accuracy.

Collimator:

A collimator adjusts the collimation of a laser beam, reducing the beam divergence angle to make it as close to parallel light as possible.

Collimators usually use concave lenses in conjunction with focusing lenses to effectively reduce the size of the focused spot of light.

Protective lenses:

Located at the bottom of the cutting head, the protective lenses prevent pollution like splatter and dust generated during cutting from polluting focusing lenses.

Beam shaper:

Machines for high precision need to be reshaped before focusing to make light intensity distribute more evenly.

Optical path adjustment mechanism: It is used to achieve precise adjustment and calibration of the optical path to ensure the stability of the laser beam focus position.

Cutting head:

cutting head

A cutting head mainly consists of a nozzle, focusing lens, and tracking system. It focuses the laser beam onto the surface of the laser beam and introduces auxiliary gases.

CNC system:

It can control the process parameters, such as moving path, speed, and laser power.

Workbench:

It functions as a bed to fix the workpiece and has X, Y, and Z axes to compose the moving structure.

Auxiliary equipment:

Such as chillers, air compressors, and exhaust systems. They provide auxiliary functions such as cooling, gas supply, and smoke exhaust for cutting processing.

Materials Compatible with Laser Cutting

Materials that are compatible with laser cutting can be divided into two kinds — metals and non-metals.

Metals include stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminium, titanium, copper, and gold. Stainless steel is one of the most common metals used for laser cutting, producing high-quality cuts.

Non-metals include Acrylic, wood, leather, glass, paper and cardboard, and drapery. Acrylic is one of the most common non-metal materials for cutting and is widely used in the advertising and decorating industry.

In addition, laser cutting machines allow high-precision cutting of wood to make handicrafts and models.

However, some materials are also incompatible with laser cutting because they emit poisonous gases that damage the equipment.

For example, PVC, a kind of plastic that contains halogens, will generate poisonous gases while processed.

Polycarbonate, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and mirror materials are also incompatible with laser cutting. Their cutting process might damage the machine.

III. Industrial Applications of Laser Cutting Machines

Automotive Industry

Cutting and engraving of vehicle parts

Laser cutters allow precise, high-quality cutting and engraving of auto parts, including interior parts and body exterior panels. Laser cutting machines have many edges over traditional handling methods.

It’s capable of high-precision cutting with smooth edges and no burrs, which decreases subsequent processes.

Lasers are designed for large batch processing with high-speed processing and high productivity. The capability to process various materials has proven its versatility. Contactless cutting avoids material deformation and keeps parts’ sizes stable.

Assist in welding and heat treatment of automotive parts

In addition to direct cutting of auto parts, it can assist in welding and heat treatment.

First, the machine can prepare for cutting before welding, improving welding efficiency and quality. Second, it cuts high-strength steel plates during the thermoforming process to complete part forming with modes.

Third, a laser cutter can perform local heat treatment on the surface of parts to improve their wear and corrosion resistance.

Examples

Numerous famous automotive producers adopt laser cutting machines during production. I will give you examples as follows:

General Motors: it uses laser cutting machine to process body parts and interior parts

Toyota: laser cutters are widely used in production lines to improve productivity and product quality.

Tesla: the battery box and body components of electronic vehicles are made by laser cutters.

As indispensable processing equipment in auto manufacturing, laser cutting machines are adopted in a wider and deeper sphere, supporting the lightweight, personalization, and intelligence of cars.

Aerospace Industry

Precision cutting of lightweight materials

Thanks to their perfect strength and weight ratio, light materials like aluminium and titanium are widely used in the aerospace industry.

With high-precision and -efficiency quality, laser cutting machines become a wise choice for processing.

Besides, it allows for micro-level cutting accuracy, small heat-affected areas, and minimal heat deformation of materials so that the precision and quality of components are ensured.

However, cutting these materials remains challenging. For instance, titanium is active in response to oxygen at high temperatures to generate a brittle oxide layer, so inert gases are needed to avoid oxidation.

Manufacturing of intricate aircraft components and parts

Laser-cutting machines leverage their strengths in complex aeroplane component manufacturing.

On the one hand, laser cutting allows for direct processing based on CAD models without necessarily using complicated modes, which significantly shortens the cycle from product design to production.

On the other hand, its flexibility enables processing all kinds of complicated components, including aircraft engine turbine blades.

However, as for some special materials and complicated structures, laser cutters remain weak in terms of accuracy and efficiency. Therefore, technological innovation and craftsmanship updates are intelligent solutions.

Examples:

Boeing: machines are used to process large parts like aircraft skin and wings.

Airbus: laser cutting technology is widely used in the manufacturing of new aircraft, such as the A350, to improve production efficiency and product quality.

Lockheed Martin: it utilizes the machine to manufacture components with intricate structures of F-35 fighter jets, such as aircraft skin and partition frames.

Overall, laser cutting machines have fulfilled their roles in the aerospace industry with their perfect performances in precision and efficiency.

However, challenges remain. In the future, with the development and upgradation of the related technology, the significance of laser cutters will grow.

Electronics Industry

Cutting and processing of precision components

The electronics industry poses a high requirement for components’ precision and quality. Therefore, laser cutters serve as a desired choice for component processing thanks to their high accuracy and efficiency characteristics.

Laser cutters allow for micro-level precision cutting, small heat-affected areas, minimizing material deformation and ensuring components' accuracy and quality.

These qualities are vital for manufacturing precise electronic parts, such as integrated circuit boards and microsensors.

Rapid prototyping of circuit boards

During electronic products R&D, rapid prototyping is the core element speeding up product launch. Laser directly processes workpieces based on CAD-designed files without using intricate modes, which impressively shrinks the period from design to production.

In addition, its flexibility equips the machine with the ability to handle the upgrade of circuit board design, greatly supporting the rapid upgrade and development of electronic products.

All in all, laser-cutting machines applied in the electronics industry can not only improve the accuracy and efficiency of component processing but also accelerate rapid prototyping which promotes product development so as to boost automation and intelligence of prodution line.

As laser technology develops and its craft upgrades, the machine will be utilized in the industry in a deeper and wider manner.

Cutting of consumer electronics casings Laser cutting machines are also used in the processing of consumer electronic product casings, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, especially the cutting of metal casings. It possesses various advantages that I would like to explain to you as follows:

Laser cutting allows for intricate cutting on a curved surface, suiting the processing of special-shaped shells. It can deduce subsequent processes because of perfect performance in cutting without burrs.

In addition, laser cutting can directly cut various functional holes in the shell, such as antenna holes, buttonholes, etc.

However, consumer electronics housing usually adopts difficult-to-machine materials like aluminium alloy, which poses high requirements for laser cutters.

Overall, laser-cutting machines fulfil their role in the electronics industry, including PCB manufacturing, component processing, and consumer electronics housing production.

What merits our attention is that different materials to be processed in various industries post different requirements and challenges, so laser cutting technology which influences the quality of the machine, should be improved in line with the market demand.

Medical Industry

Precision cutting of medical devices and implants

Laser cutting machines also play a part in the medical industry thanks to their quality of high precision and low heat affection. Its edges are present in many aspects.

Allowing for micro-level cutting accuracy, it meets the high-precision requirements for medical devices and implants. For example, heart stents and orthopedic implants.

With its small heat-affected areas during cutting, material biocompatibility is not influenced, ensuring implant security.

Laser cutting machines can process multiple medical materials, such as stainless steel, titanium alloy, bioceramics, etc.

However, medical devices and implants post extremely high requirements on cutting quality and consistency. Thus, the parameters of the machine should be strictly controlled so as to control product quality.

Manufacturing of surgical instruments and tools

Laser cutters are also widely used to manufacture surgical instruments and tools, including scalpels, scissors, and pliers.

It can cut out complicated shapes and structures in surgical instruments, improving their function performance.

With their high cutting precision, laser cutters ensure the dimensional and fit accuracy of surgical instruments. In addition, they are capable of mass production of surgical instruments.

However, surgical instruments are strict on edge-cutting quality, so cutting techniques need to be improved to perform subsequent polishing and other treatments.

Examples

Medtronic: Using laser cutting technology to produce implants such as pacemakers and vascular stents.

Johnson & Johnson: It uses lasers to manufacture surgical instruments and orthopedic implants.

Boston Scientific: laser cutters are used to manufacture heart valves, angiography catheters, and other treatments.

Companies above have proven that laser cutting machines play an essential role in improving the quality of medical instruments and technology in healthcare.

With the development of laser cutting technology and the increasing demands for medical care, laser cutters make great contributions to ensuring medical instrument quality and accelerating development of medical industry.

IV. Future of Laser Cutting Machines

laser cutting machine

Technological Advancements

The advantages of solid-state UV lasers are gradually emerging.

Ultraviolet lasers feathering high efficiency, high quality of laser beam, long longevity span and low costs for maintaining, are likely phasing out conventional excimer laser to be widely applied into OLED and micro-processing industries.

High-end machines like large power laser cutters and laser direct forming machines are widely applied.

With the breakthroughs in domestic laser cutting technology, the degree of localization of high-end laser processing machines will climb.

Promotion of automation and intelligence.

Laser-cutting technology integrated with robots, visual recognition, and artificial intelligence will improve automation, intelligence and productivity.

New laser cutting technology emerges.

The application of new laser cutters, such as femtosecond lasers and semiconductor lasers, widens its application and processing sphere.

Market Trends and Growth Projections

Larger market

It’s estimated that, in 2023, China’s total industry market scale of laser cutting machines was around 85 billion yuan.

In line with the development of technology, laser cutting machines will continue to replace traditional processing machines, leading to a higer penetration rate.

Downstream application areas expand.

Facing increasing market demands, laser cutting equipment will be more widely used in new energy vehicles, aerospace, high-end equipment manufacturing and other fields.

Medium-and low-power machines possess great potential.

Technological advancements and lower costs increase the demands for medium- and low-power machines used in domestic and medium- and small enterprises, especially in developed countries such as the United States and Europe.

The market competitiveness of domestic brands has increased.

Core components of domestic laser cutters are upgraded so that domestic machines are expected to expand global market share with an edge on cost-effectiveness.

Overall, laser cutting technology develops fast. Whether it’s on technological advancement or market demands, machines promise a prosperous future.

V. Conclusion

The article has introduced the laser cutting machine in its definition, working principles, industrial applications and future trends, which might help you to acquire a deeper understanding of laser cutting machines.

ADH laser cutting machines possess high precision and efficiency, which serve as an impressive helper in manufacturing.

Our machines allow high-accuracy processing, and our company is a competitive exporter worldwide. You can browse our product pages for details.

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