Tap to Read ➤

How Does a Laser Cutter Work

Gaynor Borade Oct 6, 2018
Laser cutting technology refers to the use of a laser beam to cut materials. This technology has led to the invention of numerous industrial processes that have redefined the speed of production-line manufacturing, and strength of industrial manufacturing applications.
Laser cutting is a relatively new technology. The strength of a laser or electromagnetic radiation is used to cut materials of varying strength. This technology is specially used to quicken the production-line processes. The use of laser beams for industrial manufacturing applications are especially used in the molding of structural and/or piping material.
Compared to mechanical cutting, laser cutting does not contaminate the material, due to lack of physical contact. Also, the fine jet of light enhances precision, an important factor in industrial applications. Since there is no wear on the device, the computerized jet reduces the chances of the expensive material being warped or exposed to extensive heat.

The Process

It involves the emission of a laser beam, on the stimulation of some lasing material. The stimulation takes place when this material, either a gas or radio frequency, is exposed to electrical discharges within an enclosure. Once the lasing material is stimulated, a beam is reflected and bounced off a partial mirror.
It is allowed to collect strength and sufficient energy, before escaping as a jet of monochromatic coherent light. This light further passes through a lens, and is focused within an intense beam that is never more than 0.0125 inch in diameter. Depending on the material to be cut, the width of the beam is adjusted. It can be made as small as 0.004 inch.
The point of contact on the surface material is usually marked with the help of a 'pierce'. The power pulsed laser beam is directed to this point and then, along the material according to requirement. The different methods used in the process include:
  • Vaporization
  • Melt and blow
  • Melt, blow, and burn
  • Thermal stress cracking
  • Scribing
  • Cold cutting
  • Burning

How Does Laser Cutting Function?

Laser cutting is an industrial application obtained by the use of a laser device to emit the generated electromagnetic radiation via stimulated emission. The resultant 'light' is emitted through a low-divergence beam. It refers to the use of directed high-power laser output to cut a material. The result is quicker smelting and melting of the material.
In the industrial sector, this technology is extensively used to burn and vaporize materials, such as sheets and bars of heavy metals and industrial components of varying size and strength. The advantage of this technology is that the debris is blown away by a jet of gas after the desired alteration is made, giving the material a quality surface finish.

Laser Cutting Equipment

The three main types of lasers include:
  • CO2 laser best suited for cutting, engraving, welding, and boring.
  • Nd or neodymium laser for boring and welding materials that require high energy and low repetition.
  • Nd-YAG or neodymium yttrium-aluminum-garnet laser for high-power engraving, welding, and boring.
CO2 lasers are run on a mechanism dictated by DC gas mix or radio frequency energy. The DC design uses electrodes within a cavity, while the RF resonators have external electrodes. There are different configurations used in industrial laser cutting machines. They are opted for according to the manner in which the laser beam is to be worked on the material.
'Moving Material Lasers' comprise a stationary cutting head, with manual intervention mainly required to move the material under it. In the case of 'Hybrid Lasers', there is a table that moves along the X-Y axis, setting a beam delivery path.
The 'Flying Optics Lasers' are equipped with stationary tables, and a laser beam that works along horizontal dimensions. The technology has now made it possible to cut through any surface material with the least investment in manpower and time.