Nowadays, laser cutting is a pretty common technique used in various areas. Laser cutting is the best option if you need to cut, drill, mark, or engrave a material for manufacturing. Its applications go beyond medical and engineering, as you can find its examples everywhere in your surroundings.
Typically, in this process, a beam of high-powered light is used to cut the material, depending on the computerized program and human operation. For further clarity, you must know the working mechanisms, types, and advantages of laser cutting. So, let’s dive into these details!
What does Laser Cutting Mean?
Laser cutting is a thermal technology that uses a laser beam to target a specific material area for its cutting, scoring, and engraving. Typically, a computer pre-programmed guide plays a crucial role in specifying the pattern of the laser beam to attain the required cut. Usually, CNC and laser optics take part in focusing the laser beam on the workpiece.
You may reach different depths to cut the layers of the material by varying the focal length of the laser beam in addition to moving it. However, if the workpiece has a lower density, it will require less laser energy and vice versa. You can apply the laser cutting technique to various materials, such as metals, plastic, wood, paper, fabrics, ceramics, etc.
How does Laser Cutting Work?
When it comes to the working mechanism of laser cutting, the first step is determining the geometry of the required material. Then input this design into a computer program. Ultimately, the laser head traces the image of the design and cuts the workpiece accordingly.
Moreover, the laser impinges the material according to the power. The more the power is increased, the more layers will be removed. The workpiece can be placed on a working table without any need for clamps. The laser works by burning, melting, or vaporizing the material.
What are the Types of Laser Cutting?
The following are different laser cutting methods used for different situations:
- Fusion Cutting
- Vaporization Cutting
- Oxidation Melting Cutting
- Fracture-controlled Cutting
Let’s discuss the above-listed methods one by one in detail.
1. Fusion Cutting
In the fusion cutting process, the material to be cut is partially melted and ejected by airflow. Typically, the process uses high-pressure nitrogen or argon to remove the molten material, yet the gas doesn’t participate. This is because both gasses are inert and don’t react with the molten material.
Normally, the gas is blown at a pressure ranging from 2 to 20 bar. The best part of this gas is it prevents oxidation at the cutting edges by cooling the material due to its certain chemical properties. Primarily, fusion cutting is ideal for dealing with materials having thicknesses of up to 15 mm.
2. Vaporization Cutting
Vaporization cutting requires an extremely high-power laser beam to focus on the workpiece in order to reach the maximum temperature. At a certain point, when the temperature reaches the boiling point of the workpiece, some material is converted into vapors, and the rest is blown away by the auxiliary gas flow.
As the vapors are discharged at high speed from the specific area where the laser hit, consequently, a cut is formed behind. Laser vaporization cutting is primarily suitable for thin materials, i.e., cloth, rubber, paper, plastic, etc.
3. Oxidation Melting Cutting
Oxidation melting, also known as flame cutting, is a thermal process that produces a flame using oxygen and fuel. In return, this flame serves as a heat energy source to melt the material. The amount of heat energy depends upon the material and how much temperature is required to kindle it. When this temperature is attained, an operator is supposed to release an additional high stream of oxygen to the flame by pressing a lever. As a result, further heat is produced.
The cutting speed of oxidation melting is faster than fusion cutting; however, it is unsuitable for making sharp corners due to the risk of burning.
4. Fracture-controlled Cutting
Another laser cutting method is fracture-controlled cutting, commonly known as thermal stress cutting. Mainly, the process serves to create cracks on brittle metal parts by using high-powered lasers. When the laser heats a specific area of a brittle surface, a crack is formed and spreads to the material’s surface.
Yet, this laser cutting method is ineffective as it only deals with brittle surfaces.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
Although there are numerous advantages of laser cutting, six of them are stated below:
1. High Precision and Accuracy
As you know laser cutting technique follows a pretty focused beam of light; thus, very precise cuts are obtained. This is the major hand of CNC routers for achieving highly precise geometric patterns, clean edges, and a smooth finish. Generally, the tolerance of the laser ranges from 0.003 mm to 0.006 mm. That’s why laser cutting is extensively applicable in aerospace industries to cut parts for fabrication purposes.
The laser cutting process demands little man input for its work. Mainly if you use a CNC laser cutting machine, the process can be automated. You can give the commands to the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) system to make the cuts according to your required measurements.
3. Less Energy Consumption
Laser cutting machines are also well-known for using less energy as compared to other cutting methods. Normally, laser cutting machines only consume power of 10kW, whereas other cutting machines can use almost 50kW of power during a single cutting session. The reason behind lower energy consumption is that it works at great speed due to which more products are produced in lesser time.
Laser cutting is not bound to specific materials and working features; instead, it offers you versatile uses. They have an excellent ability to deal with a variety of thicknesses. Generally, in the case of stainless steel, you can deal with thicknesses ranging from 0.5mm to 30mm, or sometimes to 2.75 inches. You may go for cutting or engraving the simple as well as complex structures. It allows you to make exact shapes and designs that no other cutting machine can provide.
Additionally, the laser cutting technique provides you an opportunity to deal with a variety of materials such as:
5. High Speed
Compared to traditional cutting methods, laser cutting is quite fast. It is able to cut thin materials rapidly. However, in the case of a bit thicker ones, the cutting time may extend along with a bit reduction in speed, but it remains faster than other alternatives. Therefore, laser cutting plays a vital role in increasing the production of products in both small and large-scale industries.
Laser cuttings cost pretty lesser for many reasons, some of them are as follows:
- You don’t need to install extra tools on the laser cutting machine.
- Prevents the wearing of the machine due to no contact with the surface of the workpiece.
- Lesser maintenance cost is needed due to the limited number of mechanical parts.
- It saves the cost of power by consuming less energy.
7. Less Waste
Luckily, using the laser cutting process can save your material from being wasted. Thus it offers you to utilize the resources to their total capacity without any loss of money. Also, it allows you to work in a neat and clean environment by not making a mess.
Plus, the surface of the workpiece doesn’t require re-cleaning after cutting as it is already smooth and shiny. Therefore, if a part is gone through laser cutting at the end of its manufacturing process, you can use it directly.
What are the Applications of Laser Cutting?
In this section, we’ll talk about specific areas where you can apply the laser cutting technique. So, let’s have a look!
- Laser cutting helps woodworkers cut and engrave the wood for making wood cupboards to photo frames. You can deal with almost every kind of wood for cutting, for instance, hardwoods, plywood, veneers, alder, MDF, inlays, etc.
- It is massively used for cutting different metals in manufacturing industries to produce parts. Whether it is an automotive, aerospace, or electronics industry, all use a laser cutting process.
- The application of laser cutting is also found in the fashion industry for cutting stones, gold, or gems to create intricate jewelry designs. Additionally, it can be used to cut leather, cotton, linen, and other fabrics for making clothes in textile industries.
- On top of that, laser cutting is widely used to cut all kinds of glass to manufacture various products, like mugs, glasses, wine bottles, pint glasses, etc.
- Laser cutting is also famous for cutting smooth edges and bright engravings of acrylics. Cast acrylic and extruded acrylic are the two types of acrylics compatible with laser cutting.
- Besides, you can cut and engrave the plastics for making a variety of products.
Finally, you are here with enough knowledge about laser cutting. The applications mentioned above prove the worth of laser cutting in the daily use of accessories. Almost every manufacturing industry makes use of this technique to increase the efficiency of their production.