From quantum physics to medical applications, supermarket checkouts and even our telephone network, laser technology continues to change and shape our lives. If we look at the metalworking industry in particular, laser cutting technology has made it possible to produce increasingly complex products with greater accuracy, speed and quality.
Laser cutting is a relatively new technology. Laser cutting machines made their debut on the metal processing scene in a big way in the 1980s. Before that, laser cutting had been used in various niche applications such as cutting titanium rods in aerospace applications in the 1970s. Since that time, laser cutting has come a long way.
What is laser cutting?
Lasers are high powered beams that can be used to cut various materials. The beam is so intense that it melts, burns or vaporises anything in its path. Generally, the laser beam is focused through a lens and can produce a kerf as narrow as 0.10mm, depending on the material thickness.
Types of laser cutting technologies
There are several types of laser cutting technologies, including CO2 lasers, fibre lasers and crystal lasers, each of which is suited for different materials and applications. CO2 lasers are based on a carbon dioxide gas mixture that’s electrically stimulated. They are the most widely used laser type as they can be used on a wide range of materials, particularly plastics and other non-metallic materials.
Unlike CO2 lasers, fibre lasers (a type of solid state laser) are amplified in a specially designed glass fibre, which produces an extremely small focal diameter. This not only increases the intensity of the laser up to 100 times higher than that of a CO2 laser, but makes it ideal for cutting reflective metal material.
Finally, as its name suggests, crystal lasers use a crystal as the lasing medium, namely the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd:YAG). They produce the same wavelength as fibre lasers, making them suitable for marking metals and plastics. However, crystal has a shorter service life than the fibre laser, and includes relatively expensive pump diodes, which are wearing parts.
Precision steel cutting with quality finish
While the early laser machines may have struggled with inconsistent beam delivery and the effects of ambient heat on consistency, today’s machines are able to produce better edge quality, cutting speed and lower tolerances than ever before. This is as a result of the superior drive technology, piercing capabilities and control software.
Modern laser cutting machines deliver:
High accuracy – high degree of repeatability with tolerances +/- 0.2mm and up to 25mm thick
Clean cutting – Smooth cut edges requiring little or no finishing
Economical material usage – Allows for narrow cut widths and close nesting
Minimal distortion – Laser beam does not wear during the process
ShapeCUT’s new laser cutting machine
The ShapeCUT team continues to experience firsthand the impressive capabilities of laser since the introduction of our very own LVD Impuls 6020 laser cutting machine in May 2015. This impressive machine offers the very latest in laser processing technology and includes:
6250 x 2050 cutting bed
6kW laser power
Material capacities include Steel up to 25mm, Stainless Steel up to 20mm & Aluminium up to 16mm
This state-of-the-art machine also comes with LVD’s patented Adaptive Laser Cutting (ALC) system, which uses dynamic feedback to monitor and regulate laser power, speed and assist gas pressure in real time during the cutting process. In other words, instead of relying on pre-defined parameters, the machine automatically measures and adapts to ensure a consistently accurate cut. This increases quality meaning less rework and scrapping of expensive thicker materials.