Understanding How Laser Beams Work

Laser cutting has revolutionized and accelerated manufacturing processes, particularly those that involve cutting metal, plastic and wood. While commercial laser cutting machines are common among industrial manufacturers, they can also be found in schools and independent workshops. Here are some key points to remember when planning projects that involve laser cutting.

Widely Used Types of Laser Cutting Machines

  • 2-D laser cutting
  • 3-D laser cutting
  • Tube laser cutting
  • c02 laser cutting
  • Fiber laser cutting

Evolution of Laser Beams

Cutting, drilling, marking, and engraving can all be achieved with laser cutters, which first appeared in 1960. The term “LASER” began as an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” The technology was based on shining a beam of concentrated light on material, in which cutting was an early process. Bell Labs further developed the technology in the mid-sixties when laser drilling was introduced. By the seventies, laser machines were embraced by the aerospace industry. In the following decade, laser machines had become a multi-billion dollar industry serving a wide range of manufacturing industries.

How Lasers Work

The column of intense light that forms a laser beam exists on a single wavelength. Most laser beams are in the infrared part of the light spectrum, making them invisible to the human eye. Lasers shine through a beam path but can be bounced around by mirrors known as “bend mirrors” prior to exiting through a nozzle and ultimately the laser cutting head. This intense concentration of light produces heat that melts metal, which makes cutting and drilling easy.

Laser cutting can be compared with using a magnifying glass to amplify sunlight to burn a hole through paper. With CNC laser cutters it’s important for quality purposes to adjust the focal point in relation to the metal plate either above, at, or below the surface of the plate, depending on the application. The focused beam can be as narrow as .004 inch in diameter.

Three different general configurations exist for how laser beams move over material, which are moving material, flying optics systems and hybrid. Lasers designed for moving material use a stationary cutting head as the material is moved underneath. Hybrid lasers include a table that moves in the longer axis while the cutting head moves along the shorter axis. These motions are represented by X and Y axes. The term “Z-axis” refers to when a cutting head is controlled.

One of the key benefits to a laser beam is lack of wear and tear during cuts, making it more efficient and durable than traditional cutting machines. Laser machines allow simple precision cuts and produce less contamination in the workplace.

Conclusion

One of the main reasons manufacturers use laser cutters is that they perform fast accurate cuts for various shapes, especially for metal. Contact us at Serra Laser & Waterjet to learn more about laser cut beams or to get a quick quote.

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