FAQs for Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is one of several laser processes, with the others being marking, welding, drilling, engraving, ablation, additive manufacturing and cleaning. Laser cutting, with some similarities and overlaps to the laser drilling and laser engraving process, is the process of cutting a material.

This can be done for several reasons, whether to make a product, part or material smaller, or give it a smooth finish, or to cut it into a complicated shape. Laser cutting has been steadily replacing more conventional forms of cutting over the years thanks to its ability to cut in ways that other machines simply can’t.

To help explain the laser cutting process in more detail, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.

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Laser cutting is also perfect for working with a huge variety of metals too

How does laser cutting work?

Laser cutting works by having a high-powered, highly-focused laser beam run through a material, leaving a clean cut with a smooth finish. This laser beam can be either pulsed, meaning the cut is delivered in pulses of laser, or continuous wave, meaning the laser beam is kept focused on the material until the cut is delivered.

Laser cutting starts by piercing the material with a hole, and then continues the cut from there. The laser cutting beam intensity, length and heat output can be controlled, allowing the cut to be delivered in different ways and in different times.

Laser cutting is, in some ways, similar to laser drilling and laser engraving. Laser drilling involves the creation of popped ‘thru-holes’ in materials, but occasionally these holes are created as dents rather than thru-holes. These dents, acting like engravings, are also considered ‘cuts’ in a material.

The diagram to the right is an example of how laser cutting works, although there are different laser cutting processes which work in different ways

The diagram above is an example of how laser cutting works, although there are different laser cutting processes which work in different ways

What materials can be cut with laser cutting?

Thanks to the control of beam intensity, length and heat output as described above, laser cutting is great at working with multiple materials. Listed below are just some of the materials that laser cutting works well with:

Which metals can laser cutting work with?

Laser cutting can work with a huge variety of metals, including:

While metal is the most common material that laser cutting works with, such as for the laser cutting of hydro formed parts, it is used with many other materials too, as listed above.

Laser cutting can be used to safely cut glass, avoiding unnecessary cracking such as shown in the above!

Laser cutting can be used to safely cut glass, avoiding unnecessary cracking such as shown in the above!

What industries is laser cutting commonly used in?

The control that laser cutting provides, as well as the numerous materials that it can successfully work with, means that it unsurprisingly finds use in a host of different industries.

These include the automotive industry, the aerospace industry, the semiconductor industry, the electronics industry and the medical sector.

With all of these industries, production and manufacturing rates have been increasing over the years, while parts and components have become smaller and smaller. Due to this, laser cutting has noticed an increased use throughout many of the manufacturing processes.

What are the advantages of laser cutting?

Laser cutting offers a huge number of advantages to its users:

  • Laser cutting allows for great control over beam intensity, length and heat output
  • Laser cutting uses an extremely low level of power consumption, typically around 10Kw as compared to 50Kw used by other processes
  • Laser cutting can work with a huge range of materials
  • Laser cutting is a non-contact process, meaning that the laser beam itself never actually touches the material it works with. This reduces heat damage to the surrounding area, which increases productivity by decreasing downtime and repair costs
  • Laser cutting machines have very low maintenance costs and inexpensive parts for replacement
  • Laser cutting delivers precise cuts with smooth finishes
  • Laser cutting can switch quickly between multiple applications and setups, reducing time wastage and the need for multiple machines

With the above advantages, it is easy to see why laser cutting is becoming so widely used.

 

Why is laser cutting better than other conventional processes?

Laser cutting offers unique benefits over other more conventional forms of cutting. It has a lower power consumption, typically around 10Kw compared to 50Kw of other forms, and it operates at a much quicker and more precise rate.

Also it is safer as the laser beam is enclosed within a tight light box, whereas with other conventional methods typically a free running blade is doing the cutting.

How accurate is laser cutting?

One of the biggest benefits of the laser cutting process is the accuracy and precision that it provides to its users. With a focused, narrow beam, it can provide an ultimate level of accuracy.

Slits with widths as small as 0.1mm are achievable with laser cutting. You can see more on the laser cutting process in action with a video from us here; redENERGY G4 Pulsed Fiber Laser Cutting & Marking 0.3mm& 0.9mm.

What are the capabilities of laser cutting?

Laser cutting is capable of performing a huge number of tasks. Thanks to the accuracy and speed that it provides, you will see it being used to delivery cuts in materials, make holes, create complicated shapes, and even to perform surgery on human tissue.

Will laser cutting damage my material?

No, and this is one of the greatest advantages of laser cutting. As it is a non-contact process and uses a beam that is highly precise on the area it is being focused upon, heat damage is minimal to the surrounding area of the material.

Are there different types of laser cutting?

Yes, there are several different types and techniques of laser cutting. The three main types of laser cutting are C02 laser cutting, crystal laser cutting, and fiber laser cutting. Here at SPI Lasers we only work with fiber laser cutting using our Pulsed Fiber Lasers and Continuous Wave Fiber Lasers.

Do you have more questions about laser cutting?

As you can see from the above, laser cutting is one of the most useful processes to have been developed for modern society today. Although you may not realise it, laser cutting affects us in more ways than you think!

The laser cutting process has many benefits over convetional cutting, namely that it delivers a much cleaner cut and finish

The laser cutting process has many benefits over convetional cutting, namely that it delivers a much cleaner cut and finish

From helping to save lives with laser surgery to building the cars we drive or the smartphones that we use, laser cutting has a part to play. It is just one of a number of useful processes our range of Fiber Lasers can complete. If you have more questions that aren’t answered here on laser cutting or one of the other laser processes, we would be happy to help.

Image credit: Unknown, Jilbert Ebrahimi, Arcaion and Unsplash

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