CO2 Laser cutting has developed greatly over the years bringing about major changes and much efficiency in cutting and etching of materials that are common in industrial applications. There are many laser cutter machines in the market, each with different functionality. It is therefore quite important for anyone wanting to buy these machines to make the right choice in getting one and also have some background information of their functionality. Some of the common laser cutters in the market today are the small desktop laser cutter, commonly referred to as the hobby laser machine and the fiber metal laser cutter is priced higher but is significantly more focused and powerful in what it can etch or cut.
The laser cutting machine is relatively new in the market and is specially designed to provide an inexpensive quality way for users especially hobbyists to cut and engrave materials. This machine provides a good way for personal work on materials with an easy to do setting up. It is a has a compressed body structure but is also powerful enough to cut and engrave materials effectively. Most hobbyists or businesses will buy from a retailer rather than hassle with a DIY laser etcher or cutter. Most of the DIY machines are under powered and prone to fall apart. And this is of course after many hours of purchasing laser parts and assembly.
The market price of CO2 laser cutter machinery is quite affordable as compared to industry fiber machines. Desktop machines are portable, with a weight of around 250 pounds and should come factory equipped with graphics and/or interface laser software that will send the image to the laser. This interface makes it possible to use it with other design software including Adobe Illustrator, Autocad, PhotoShop and even MS Word. As far as power is concerned the laser has a glass or metal tube anywhere from 30 to one or 150 watts making it economical in terms of power power consumption, an added plus for home users. The power peaks of its 700mm glass laser are at a 40 watt peak and range from 30 to 35 watts on average.
With an embedded honey comb table and exhaust fan, it is quite suitable for cutting wood and acrylic. It can also be used for engraving and cutting fabrics, varieties of plastic materials, leather and generally most of the other non metal materials.
When it comes to cutting and even etching metal for applications such as barcode marking, the fiber laser cutter is a popular choice. Fiber cutting or engraving is often used in industrial or metal fabricating applications. It has an added advantage of being more energy efficient and also requires less maintenance. This laser metal cutter uses fiber technology and has motion system technology together with CNC controls making it among the most advanced laser cutting technologies currently available. To cut metals, it takes a high amount of focusing power onto the material’s surface at a predetermined wavelength.
see more about fiber innovation here: http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/print/volume-48/issue-04/features/the-state-of-the-art.html
The high quality beam that the laser produces enables it to be used in precision engineering, instrumentation measurement calibration and in the branding of logos, labels and stickers on metallic and non metallic materials. The fiber laser cutters come in a range of models that are quite flexible in use offering a wide range of functionality. For less intensive cutting and engraving of materials, there are the light weight machines such as the platino while for high end tasking uses there heavy duty machines with unlimited work area such as the maximo laser cutter. However, these types of large scale laser cutters are much more expensive than the other laser cutters but provide quality performance coupled with the energy efficiency making them worth it.
LASER ETCHING COOL STUFF…
When it comes to etching, it’s hard to beat a modern CO2 laser system. A laser etcher, cutter, or engraver is reliable, low-maintenance, and extremely precise. It doesn’t produce the mess of conventional mechanical engraving. The price on modern laser systems has even come down to the point of being affordable for small businesses. So, what do you need to know about the technology before buying in?
Laser Machinery Types
There are two main types of lasers used for engraving: the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas laser, and the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) laser. The CO2 laser is by far the most common, and generally the most affordable. The Nd:YAG laser is generally used for engraving, cutting, and marking only in higher-priced industrial systems that need to handle bare metal. Although fiber technology is eclipsing yag due to its efficiency.
The CO2 laser is one of the first lasers ever invented, and it’s still among the most useful. Almost all laser engraving machines on the market use CO2 lasers. CO2 lasers are highly efficient, using a tube of CO2 gas (generally mixed with nitrogen, hydrogen or xenon, and helium) to produce very long wavelength infrared light in the 10-micrometer wavelength range. Since the wavelength is so long — the CO2 laser is a “heat ray” — they’re very good at creating spots of heat on just about any material.
By comparison, the Nd:YAG laser uses a solid yttrium-aluminum-garnet crystal that’s been “doped” with neodymium. Whereas CO2 lasers are almost always continuous-wave types where the beam is on for seconds or hours, Nd:YAG lasers may be pulsed as well as continuous. With a pulsed laser, the beam may only last for nanoseconds… but produce tremendous output power, enough to vaporize very tough materials instantly. Nd:YAG lasers generally put out a wavelength one-tenth as long (about one micrometer) as a CO2 laser, so they won’t engrave many materials as efficiently. However, whereas CO2 lasers find it very hard to so much as scratch most bare metals (the beam just reflects away) an Nd:YAG can mark and even punch holes in them with ease.
What About Buying a Used Laser Etcher?
If you’re looking to laser etch stainless steel or wood…and you’ve considered the cost of a new laser engraver, it’s tempting to look at used machines. This can be a great idea: laser engravers don’t wear out very easily. There are only a few parts with a limited lifespan, so it’s not too hard to figure out what it will cost to get a used laser running like new. Generally, it’s the laser tube, the laser optics, and the honeycomb or pin table that have to be replaced in an older laser engraver.
The laser tube is probably the most expensive part, and most machines will let you know how many hours have been put on an older tube. The laser optics are the second most expensive part… yes, a little glass lens really does cost a few hundred dollars. Why? CO2 laser beams don’t go through regular glass, so manufacturers have to use special materials. (Some CO2 laser optics even look opaque to the human eye.) The honeycomb or pin table is simple but critical: it’s just a honeycomb-like material that supports the work being cut. Using a honeycomb structure means the cutting system can easily evacuate smoke and dust, while the honeycomb structure resists damage from the laser beam.
3D Laser etchings
3D etched material whether glass, metal or wood looks magical. Imagine a hand-carved bas-relief scene in wood… reproduced with the finest possible detail and perfect lines. The trick to making clean 3D impressions in material is to understand how your laser’s software works. My experience tells me to make sure you get a laser where you can engrave shades of grey. By making a given area darker or lighter, you control the depth of the resulting etch. A darker area gets more power from the laser, and therefore results in a deeper cut. The more shades of grey your software supports, the more “levels” of depth are possible.
What Laser Engraving Supplies Should I Buy?
Laser engravers offer all sorts of supplies and accessories to help with special jobs: things like double head attachments, rotary stages, air assists, and more. If you need to engrave a lot of identical parts quickly, some manufacturers offer double head attachments that split the beam in two. By turning up the power, you can engrave two parts at once. For engraving round objects (like wine glasses) a rotary stage will rotate the object under the laser. Air assists cut flaming, scorching, and charring to a minimum if you’re engraving wood, acrylic, and rubber: they blow a jet of high-pressure air across the point where the laser beam is hitting the material to quickly remove excess heat.
What Do Laser etching Systems Come Equipped With?
Well, it generally includes a computer-controlled positioning system to precisely control where the laser strikes the material, optics to carry the beam to its destination, a honeycomb table to support the work, and at least a basic dust/smoke management system to keep the optics clear of debris while the laser is operating. Most lasers integrate all of these into one unit with safety interlocks. Some manufacturers will include accessories like air assists as part of the basic unit.
Below is an etching machine in action: