The CO2 or carbon dioxide laser is by far the most powerful type of industrial laser currently available. In general, this type of laser is used for deep penetration welding, but also for contour cutting. Most solids easily absorb the CO2 laser’s light (ten point six micrometers) which means that it can be used in order to process a wide range of materials. There are many pros to using a CO2 laser cuter, as following:
1. Compared to plasma or water jet cutting, CO2 lasers make a lot less noise.
2. Composites can be easily cut without having to worry about tearing the edges.
3. Hard to cut materials, such as ceramics or foam rubber can be cut with CO2 lasers very easily.
4. CO2 laser can be used in order to make partial or blind cuts in certain materials.
5. Tool changes are not hardware changes, but software changes (as in the use of dies and punches for instance).
6. Compared to using a punch press or a milling tool, there is no tool wear that people have to worry about when using a CO2 laser.
7. For a wide range of cutting jobs only minimal fixturing is required.
8. The laser cutting process can be automated very easily.
9. Due to heat affected zones and narrow kerf width, patterns can be closely nested which results in great savings in the long term.
10. Cut edges are almost perpendicular to the surface, relatively smooth, and require no further cleaning or shaping before further fabrication.
11. CO2 laser cutters can cut very flexible and thin materials without having to worry about distortion.
12. The heat input of CO2 lasers is low, meaning that the components to be cut suffer low warping or distortion.
Lower power consumption
If you’ve used a turret punch or blanking press in the past, then you probably know that it comes about 50 kW of power. However, when it comes to CO2 lasers, the power consumption is much lower. In fact, a 4kW laser will consume only 10kW of power which is 5 times lower than a turret punch or blanking press. In the long run, CO2 lasers can save you a lot of money.
When it comes to blanking presses, they use a large blade that moves rapidly down and up and doesn’t really have any safety features that may prevent people from injuring themselves, specifically their hands. On the other hand, fiber lasers need to be enclosed in a very tight and well secured box. This means that they are basically designed in such a way that they require no human intervention during the cutting process.
Material Scrap savings
Given the fact that cutting tools require materials on both sides of the cut, a border of minimum half an inch is needed. When it comes to lasers, parts need only share a common outline in order to be cut with a single cut and without any kind of scraps. If needed, the machine may also cut a minimal scrap skeleton as small as a sixteenth of an inch. Depending on the material to be cut, the size can be even lower.
It’s well known that blanking dies are able to cut materials up to the maximum tensile strength. What’s amazing about CO2 laser cutting is that it can basically cut any material as long as it can be melted.
A turret punch or blanking press has costly tools that require regular storing and sharpening. This is not the case for CO2 lasers. In fact, in order to change a part in a laser, you need to just change its program. If replacement parts are required, they are generally nozzles and lenses which are very affordable.
For each part that’s a fixed design, a regular blanking line has a tool. The thing is that these tools can be expensive, sometimes costing as much as fifty thousand dollars (based on shape). Turrets on the other hand are a lot better and that’s because the machine operator can program any shape that the set of smaller shapes can use in order to make a product. If a change in design is required, then that change will be limited to the available tools. If the tools required for that change aren’t available, they need to be purchased. Even more, once they’re purchased, the turret needs to have available slots so they can be used. While in terms of price such tools are more affordable, they require regular maintenance which in the end drives up costs considerably.
This is not the case for CO2 lasers. In fact, they can change the cutting profile on the fly and they also require a lot less time to be reprogrammed. In fact, they cost about sixty dollars to apply a change and in most cases, this is a high estimate.
Better edge quality
Punches and presses usually shear through the material, meaning that it basically stretches the edge to the point where it simply breaks. As a result, the over edge of the top side of a part is usually rounded, while the bottom has very sharp, stretched ribbons. In general, these have to be cleaned off by using an abrasive and the price for this operation can be quite expensive. When properly used, a laser can effectively cut a part with an edge with a very smooth surface, while ensuring the bottom edge is smooth and the top edge remains square.
In order to change between different cutting parts, a blanking press require about thirty minutes of maintenance. Lasers though can instantly change programs, resulting in great cost and time savings. Small production runs in this case will have a much lower price. Even more, for every two blanking lines, three laser lines will be able to produce the same output. Since blanking presses are about 10 million dollars and a similar laser costs only 2 million dollars, choosing between the 2 is a no brainer.
All in all, we hope this article made it clear why CO2 laser superior to other cutting technologies and tools. Not only is it more effective and can cleanly cut a wider range of materials, but it’s also much cheaper and requires very little maintenance.