Laser cutting is a non-traditional processing method that cuts material with an intensely focused stream of coherent light known as laser. It is a subtractive process that removes material continuously during the cutting process. This can be accomplished through vaporization, melting, chemical ablation, or controlled crack propagation.
CNC (Computer Numerical Control) digitally controls the laser optics, allowing the process to drill holes as small as 5 microns. Furthermore, because the process does not introduce residual stresses into the material, it is possible to cut delicate and fragile materials.
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What is the Process of Laser Cutting?
A laser cutting machine functions similarly to a CNC machine but employs a high-powered laser instead. The laser will guide the material or beam through the CNC and optical equipment. The machine will cut the material and control the motion using the CNC or G-code provided.
The material will melt, vaporize, and burn after the laser beam is focused. Furthermore, by blowing the material with a gas jet, you can achieve a high-quality finished edge surface. The laser beam is created in a closed container using a lamp or electrical discharge to stimulate the luminescent material.
The luminescent material is amplified after internal reflection through a partial mirror. This phenomenon will continue until there is enough energy in a coherent monochromatic light stream to allow it to escape. After being focused on the working area with fiber or mirror, the light’s intensity increases.
At its thinnest point, the laser beam has a diameter of less than 0.32 mm. In contrast, the width of the incision can be as small as 0.10 mm. However, this is dependent on the material’s thickness. A perforation process is used when the material is cut with a laser cutter without starting from the edge of the material.
Types of Laser Cutting
There are three types of lasers used for cutting. CO2, Nd-YAG (neodymium yttrium aluminium garnet), and fiber lasers are examples. The base material used to generate the laser beam differs.
Carbon Dioxide Lasers
The gas discharge medium in this laser is filled with 10-20% carbon dioxide, 10-20% nitrogen, and trace amounts of hydrogen, xenon, and helium. Laser pumping is accomplished through the use of discharge current rather than light.
The nitrogen molecules are excited to a higher energy level as the discharge passes through the illumination medium. Unlike previously described excited nitrogen molecules, they do not lose energy due to photon emission.
Instead, the energy of its vibrational modes is transferred to the CO2 molecules. This process is repeated until the majority of CO2 molecules are transferable. After that, the carbon dioxide molecules emit infrared light at 10.6 m or 9.6 m, lowering their energy level.
Resonant mirrors are intended to reflect photons emitted at these wavelengths. A mirror is a partial reflector that allows the infrared beam used to cut the material to be released.
AFTER EMITTING INFRARED LIGHT, the CO2 molecule returns to the ground state by transferring its remaining energy to the doped helium atoms. The laser’s cooling system then heated and cooled the cold helium atoms. CO2 lasers have a higher efficiency of around 30% than other lasers.
Crystal lasers (Ruby, Nd, and Nd-YAG)
This type of laser, unlike CO2 lasers, is a solid-state laser that emits light through synthetic crystals. A YAG (Y3Al5O12) crystal doped with 1% ionized neodymium (Nd3+) is the most common.
In this crystal, Nd ions replace Y ions in the crystal structure. The rods are about 10 cm long and 6 to 9 cm in diameter. The YAG rod ends are polished and coated with a highly reflective material to act as a resonator system.
Laser pumping is accomplished with a krypton flash or laser diode. This laser pumping causes neodymium ions to become more energetic. After a while, the exciting neodymium ions enter a lower, more stable state and cease to emit photons.
This process is repeated until the medium is filled with excited Nd ions. The Nd ion emits infrared light with a wavelength of 1064 nm in its degraded state.
Fiber lasers are a newer type of laser that emits light through optical fibers rather than gases or crystals (as in CO2 lasers) (Nd-YAG lasers). Fiber lasers are solid-state lasers that work similarly to crystal lasers because they use optical fibers.
The optical fiber contains erbium and ytterbium-doped elements. Erbium emits light with wavelengths ranging from 1528 to 1620 nm. On the other hand, Ytterbium emits light at 1030 nm, 1064 nm, and 1080 nm. The light stays inside an optical fiber with minimal energy loss when it passes through it. As a result, optical fibers are more stable than other types that require precise alignment.
The light stays inside an optical fiber with minimal energy loss when it passes through it. As a result, optical fibers are more stable than other types that require precise alignment.
Benefits of Laser Cutting Machine
Laser-cutting machines offer a host of advantages for industrial applications. They are precise, reliable, and fast. With the accurate cuts they can produce, the laser cutter can minimize material waste and reduce costs while maintaining high-quality standards. Additionally, laser cutters are easy to maintain and more flexible than other cutting technology, allowing for complex designs to be cut quickly with minimal effort.
High Precision and Accuracy
Lasers use a focused beam of light to cut objects with pinpoint accuracy. The laser is small and powerful but melts and evaporates material with unparalleled precision. Laser tolerances typically range from 0.003 mm to 0.006 mm.
Plasma cutters have a tolerance of about 0.02 mm, which is greater than that of laser cutting. Other cutting tools have 1 to 3 mm tolerance levels or even higher. Assume that a machine with high precision and accuracy is required in manufacturing.
Lower Cost and Affordability
One of the benefits of laser technology is that it has a cost advantage over other CNC machines of the same calibre. Because of laser cutting technology, custom tools are no longer required. There is also no need to modify the equipment for any project because no additional cutting tools are required.
Furthermore, there is no wear and tear on the surface because there is no physical contact. Laser-cutting machines are less expensive to maintain than other processing technologies because they have fewer mechanical parts. The machine’s operating costs will also be lower when compared to traditional manufacturing tools.
Low Waste and High Sheet Utilization
Only a small amount of material is wasted when using a laser cutter to cut material. This distinguishes laser cutting from other machines that use a significant amount of material. Manufacturers can maximize material usage by using a laser cutter. Less material is wasted as resources are used more efficiently, and production costs are reduced.
Power Consumption is Low
It would be advantageous if you had a lot of power to achieve a cut in real life. On the other hand, laser-cutting machines have no other moving parts, reducing energy consumption. Machines with movable parts, on the other hand, tend to consume more energy. Furthermore, laser cutters cut material very quickly. This saves time and energy. When less energy is consumed, the operating costs are reduced.
Compatibility with a Wide Range of Materials
It’s worth noting that this machine can work with various materials. In addition to material cutting, laser cutting aids in marking, drilling, and engraving processes. It is worth noting that you do not need to switch or change tools to complete all of these tasks.