Improvements to Sheet Metal Cutting with a High Power, Variable Beam Quality Fiber Laser

Sheet metal laser cutting is a well-established production method, with many thousands of cutting systems operating worldwide. In the last 10 years solid-state fiber-coupled lasers such as fiber and disk systems have become the laser of choice, replacing the CO2 laser used in many older systems. In both cases the machines operate in a similar manner, using a cutting head to focus the laser beam onto the sheet metal through a conical nozzle with co-axial high pressure assist gas.

Up to now such laser sources have used a fixed beam quality, and the cutting performance has been characterised over a wide range of output powers, identifying the range of suitable focal spot sizes which produce good cuts. The selection of a particular focal spot size for a given laser cutting system can be made using a ”One Spot Size Fits All“ approach, where one lens combination is used to process all metal types and thicknesses. For a low cost, straightforward machine this can work acceptably well, and the cutting performance for a given laser power can be well defined for a range of sheet metals.

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