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Home > Fiber laser cutting and CO2 laser, which will be better

Fiber laser cutting and CO2 laser, which will be better

There are two major technologies in industrial laser cutting: fiber and CO2. Making the right choice when choose the laser cutting is essential for quality workpieces, but the choice is more complex to make than it seems .Laser cutting principle of operation. If oxygen is used as an assist gas, thicker materials can be cut.

What made the laser useful was not just the power of the emitted light, but its high coherence and very narrow spectrum to make it valuable for industry. The coherence keeps the beam from diverging, allowing a lot of energy to be concentrated on a small spot, ideal for cutting, while the narrow frequency has a major effect on cutting performance in some materials.

CO2 lasers

Carbon dioxide lasers have two unique properties that make CO2 laser ideal for industrial cutting: the first is the wavelength of light, emitting at 10.6um, near infrared, ideal for heating. The second useful property is high efficiency, over 30 percent, exceptional for gas lasers. The combination allows CO2 laser with high power and good heating efficiency.

Fiber Lasers

Efficiency of fiber laser is good, but the energy not producing coherent laser light and it must dissipate with a cooling system, which placing a practical limit on the amount of the power.Fiber lasers use optical fibers, lowering operating costs. They also convert pumped energy into laser light at up to twice the efficiency of gas lasers and typically use half the power. The wavelength of fiber lasers is also shorter than CO2, typically 1 um, with a very small focal diameter, offering higher intensity heating than CO2 technology at similar power levels. They can also cut highly reflective materials such as brass or aluminum, which could damage the optics in a CO2 machine.

Which is better?

From an efficiency and simplicity perspective, fiber would be better but for thick section steel plate (typically 8-12mm) the power and speed of CO2 is still in front, although fiber units are approaching parity in cut quality and speed. Because of the differences in wavelength and beam path between the two types, power isn’t an accurate measure of relative performance. A 2kW fiber laser might outperform a 3kW CO2 unit in thin sheet steel, for example, while in thicker plate, CO2 may only be challenged by plasma or water jet technology. Fiber laser technology is scalable, however, and power levels are reaching performance parity with CO2 in all but the most demanding applications. Steel is still the most common material and cutting the most used laser process, but even with this well-understood material, cutting cost calculation can be complex.

The assist gas is an important consideration, both for speed and cost. Inert gases such as nitrogen or air are used mainly to blow molten material out of the cut, but oxygen is a major contributor to the cutting process to burn away material as well as flushing the kerf. Oxygen assisted cutting is faster for both processes speed and heavy plate capability.Nitrogen can present a similar issue where the very thin kerf of the fiber unit requires more gas to flush the cut.

What’s the best option? For thin sheet, fiber laser is the dominant technology for high rate cutting, while in thicker sections, CO2 is still preferred for high definition work with good cutting speeds.

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