General Guide to Laser Cutting

SPI Lasers are delighted to provide our general guide to laser cutting. This is a snapshot of content from various application insights all assembled into this guide article.

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Laser cutting is also used to build important space-exploring aircraft

In which industries can you find laser cutting?

The cutting and adapting of materials and objects finds uses in multiple industries around the world. Listed below are some of the many industries in which benefit from this cutting with lasers.

The automotive industry

The automotive industry involves the design, development, manufacture, and construction of thousands of different parts and dozens of varying materials. Each step of this process needs to be handled delicately to ensure that the end product is safe and reliable.

 

There are many uses of cutting with lasers within the automotive industry, for example the cutting of carriage components to ensure that they fit together properly, and even the cutting of airbags.

The aerospace industry

The aerospace industry bears many similarities to the automotive industry in that thousands of different parts and dozens of materials are used within the process, albeit on a larger scale. The aircraft industry alone is growing rapidly, and revenues have doubled in the last decade. With this in mind, the industry has been looking for ways to reduce costs.

Laser cutting is the preferred solution for this and is used for cutting high-strength aluminium alloys to ensure a good finish and low heat-affected zone; something that had previously been not possible.

The electronics industry

In the electronics industry, electronic parts have become much smaller and more complex over recent years, and laser cutting has risen as a process that can deliver the results required.

Used within the electronics industry to cut uSD cards and circuit boards which are also found in the semi-conductor industry.

The medical sector

The products and devices created within the medical sector need to be created to the highest quality, and laser-based cutting, along with many other laser processes, is one such process that is used within the medical sector.

The process is used for precision tube cutting and for the cutting of high-grade stents, used for a number of different medical applications such as birth control or kidney stone pain control.

The semi-conductor industry

The semi-conductor industry involves the manufacture and development of tiny parts and chips, and cutting with lasers is one of the only processes that offer the precision required to create high-quality finishes.

As mentioned above, is used within the semi-conductor industry for the cutting of uSD cards and circuit boards, and also of matrix lead frames.

Have more questions?

There are many different laser processes available, and cutting makes up just one of these, offering its own unique set of qualities and benefits. We understand that it can initially be hard to differentiate between the different laser processes available, and so have answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.

Together with this, we have explored in more depth just how laser cutting works, as well as the various processes, applications and the various types and techniques.

We know that a high-quality finish and a safe end-product are of chief concerns to all of our customers, and so we’ve clearly laid out the quality and reliability of the cutting process, as well as the machines that are available from us here at SPI Lasers.

Cutting of metal

Laser cutting is most commonly used for working with metal. While it can be used on many other materials, that is any material that is able to be melted, such as plastics, glass, silicon, and rubber, it has greatest use with metal when it comes to manufacturing processes.

You’ll find that there is almost no limit to the shapes that can be cut using a laser. The general rule is that if you can draw it, then it can be cut! Laser cutting is great at working with single sheets of metal, 3D objects and complicated shapes.

The laser cutting process is also commonly used for the cutting of intricate shapes

The laser cutting process is also commonly used for the cutting of intricate shapes

Engraving metal with a laser

As well as cutting various shapes and sizes of metal, lasers can also be used to engrave metal as well. While you will find that laser engraving is a process in its own right, many of the laser processes that are on offer are extremely similar, such as those between laser drilling and laser ablation.

Therefore, in some cases the tools used to achieve excellent cutting can also be used for laser engraving. As its name suggests, this is the process of engraving a material, most commonly metal, using a laser. This is an extremely delicate process as the metal being worked with can be thin, and it is important that the metal isn’t damaged in any other way.

As a single machine can be used for multiple purposes, including laser engraving, it is the perfect solution should you need to cut and engrave metals separately.

Cutting reflective metals

When we say that laser cutting is great at working with dozens of different metals, we really mean it, and this includes bright and reflective metals. And when we say that laser cutting can be used to cut metals into all shapes and sizes, we really mean that too!

To prove this, we at SPI Lasers thought that we would create some intricate and complicated final products to show you.

One was a small replica of Tower Bridge, and another was to create ourselves an SPI Lasers pet in the form of a dragon! You can see the making of the SPI Lasers dragon here.

 

The before and after of the laser cutting process

The before and after of the laser cutting process

Here you can see the before and after process. The first image shows the computer-aided design (CAD) version of what the users wanted to achieve, and the bottom image shows the result of the cutting process on stainless steel.

As can be seen the end result is a perfect replica of the CAD image, clearly showing how accurate and beneficial the cutting process can be.

The history of cutting with lasers

Despite being a process which is now used all over the world, cutting with a laser, and indeed laser applications in general are still a relatively new technology. The birth of the first laser was around 1960, and after that the technology developed pretty quickly.

A form of laser drilling and cutting, was being used by 1965 in diamond mines, and it was the British that pioneered the use of cutting in 1967. Western Electric had been producing laser-based cutting machines on a wider scale by this point, and by the early 1970s laser-based cutting was used in the aerospace industry.

The process has developed rapidly since then, and we now find it being used in many different industries for varying applications.

Videos and pictures

We’ve provided a host of information above on the laser cutting process, but there are also some great videos and pictures available to help demonstrate just how effective the process is. We have shared some of our favourite images and videos below.

Videos of laser cutting

There are many great videos on laser cutting, and we have shown some of these below:

The above video shows just how adaptable a process laser cutting can be, and is used to create mechanised hands commonly used in films.

 

As we explored above, laser cutting can cut through many materials, including metals and plastics. But did you know that the process can also work with pumpkins as well?! Take a look at this alternative use for laser cutting in the video above.

Alongside the metals and pumpkins shown above, laser cutting is also often used to cut glass as it delivers a smooth finish without cracking the glass. You can see a video demonstration of this above.

One final material that we wanted to show laser cutting working with is wood. As can be seen in the great video above, lasers are just as effective as working with wood as it is with any other material.

Finally, we have to include one of our own YouTube videos in this offering! We set out to design and develop a complicated and intricate shape using laser cutting, and the above video shows how we created a replica of Tower Bridge.

Need to know more?

There is a great deal of information available regarding the laser cutting process, and we hope that the above has helped to break down the process for you. However, if you want to know more about this and other laser processes that we have, or about our Continuous Wave Fiber Lasers or Pulsed Fiber Lasers, you can contact one of our team here.

 

Image credit: Wokandapix, NASA-Imagery, Paula, PIRO4D and  Mike1024

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