Laser cutting is a technique based on the presence of a laser usually for cutting parts of metal, wood or plastic.
The laser works on the optical amplification via a resonator. Technically, it means that a part of the light goes out and the other part is fed back to a laser cavity.
There are six families of laser which vary according to the nature of the excited middle.
We will look at three of the six existing lasers : the CO ² laser, the fiber laser and the cristal laser.
Boasting features and different functions, they each have advantages and disadvantages that we are going to present in this article. Also, the several laser methods are destined to different machining that we will highlight to help you to choose a laser cutting machine.
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The CO ² laser
Laser CO ², or also called gas laser, operates with a gas mixture of carbon dioxide stimulated by electric shocks. Perfectly suitable for the machining of plastic or at least of non-metallic materials, its wavelength is about 10.6 microns and is known for a high quality result. Widespread in the wood, plastic or textile industry, it combines ease of use and high machining quality.
The fiber laser
This kind of laser is part of the so-called solid-state lasers. The technical is fairly recent (developed in 1964). It is based on the production of a laser beam through a laser “seed”, a low-power diode laser that can be found in the communication industries, including the cable TVs. Pump diodes convey the energy to glass fibers which allow the formation of the laser. The wavelength of the fiber laser is 1, 064 micrometers that it is very small and allows a precise and powerful cutting up to 100 times higher than the CO ² laser. The cristal laser lasts a long time and requires a little maintenance for providing more than 25,000 hours of machining. Particularly suitable for cutting metal, it can also provide a work metal engraving or machining of plastics.
The crystal laser
We conclude with the crystal laser, which is part of the same family as the fiber laser because they are both part of the so-called solid-state lasers. The most famous crystal laser is the YAG crystal, because of the necessary components for the operation: yttrium aluminum garnet doped with neodymium. The YVO model is also widely used (orthovanadate yttrium doped with neodymium). The dopant is neodymium in each case and the crystal allows the cutting, it is also called the host crystal. The wavelength obtained with this technique is the same as the fiber laser: 1,064 micrometers which allows to work on metals and plastics or ceramics. However, the wear of the crystal laser is quite fast. After more than 15 000 hours, the pump diodes need to be replaced, and the cost is relatively high. Crystal does not have a long life and must be renewed often which makes this technology less popular than the fiber laser.
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