Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Laser Cutting

Written By Mark Batson Baril

(LASER) Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

Lasers come in many different shapes and sizes. They range in usage from the standard supermarket scanner to those being developed as part of military defensive systems. The laser has existed in usable form since the mid 1960's.

The type used almost exclusively for cutting a wide range of materials is the CO2 gas laser. Hole drilling is typically done with solid state YAG lasers.

A laser beam is created by the introduction of gas and electric current to a sealed chamber. As the electricity breaks down the gas an energy is released and resonates between mirrors within the chamber. As it resonates it increases in intensity and at it's optimum is released through a partially transmissive mirror. The beam is then directed to a focusing lens and is further intensified. At this point the laser beam becomes a usable cutting device.

Some advantages of cutting with lasers include, the ability to cut incredibly complex shapes with no tooling or set-ups. This makes them perfect for production or prototype runs for a huge variety of different products.

Laser cutting systems cut quickly and very accurately through a wide range of materials. In general, for steel, laser cutting lies between cutting with wire EDM, which is more precise but slower, and plasma, which is less precise but faster. They go well beyond the range of these other methods as well in that they can cut through just about anything within certain thicknesses.

Given the right material and type of system, tolerances can be held to ±.0005"(.0127mm). Lasers can be found most commonly being used to cut:

  • Most types of steel and aluminum. Large lasers will cut up to 1"(25.4mm) steel and .250"(6.35mm) in aluminum.
  • Paper
  • Wood, plywood, hardwoods
  • Rubber
  • Most Plastics - Acrylic

When matched to a suitable motion control system, laser cutting provides extremely accurate cuts with a high degree of repeatability over a wide range of materials and shapes.

1 comment:

  1. Informative post. Laser cutting really can be used for a variety of purposes...we do more of the industrial stuff. Thanks for sharing.