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How Does Laser Cutting Work?

Laser cutting is used in everything from manufacturing to surgery. With its many applications, laser cutting is crucial to the success of many companies. If you’re interested in using laser cutting for your business, you should know how the laser cutting process works and how a laser cutter functions. You should also know the primary types of laser cutters and their main applications. This article will give you all the details you need.

What Is the Laser Cutting Process?

What is the process of laser cutting? The laser cutting process is relatively new as it relies on advanced computing power and laser beams to cut into materials. During laser cutting, someone first inputs a design into a computer program. After the design is in the program, the computer will then move the laser over the material you want to cut. 

This laser then burns, melts or vaporizes the materials to adjust them to fit your desired shape. The machine will also often use gas to blow away any material left over. At the end of the process, the material will be transformed into a product with the desired shape. Its edge will also have an excellent surface finish. 

Like a more traditional milling machine, a precision laser cutter will cut on the x, y and z axes. Laser cutters separate themselves from these older machines by using a high-powered laser instead of a drill to do the cutting. 

During the laser cutting process, you can choose either a continuous wave beam or pulsed beam. A pulsed beam will deliver the laser in quick bursts, while a continuous wave beam will keep it running in continuous succession. You can usually control the laser beam’s heat output, length and intensity to customize it to the needs of the material you’re working with. You can even use a special lens or mirror to focus the laser beam more.

How Does a Laser Cutter Work?

A laser cutter is a form of digital manufacturing technology that utilizes 2D vector files to guide lasers. The laser cutter has a laser resonator that contains glass fibers or a gas mixture of a crystal body. The type of laser resonator used will depend on the cutting method. To begin cutting, the machine will take energy and apply it to the machine’s mixture. After the energy is applied, it is then sent through the various mirror lenses needed to focus the laser. 

As the energy is sent through the mirrors, it travels into a nozzle that straightens the beam and sends it onto the material in a focused form. While the technique is called laser “cutting,” it’s more like laser “vaporizing,” as the beam vaporizes the material it makes contact with. This material is vaporized into the shape programmed into the vector file. 

There will be some changes to this process based on the type of laser cutter you use, but the above information covers the basics of how a laser cutting machine works.

Different Types of Laser Cutters

Many different types of laser cutters are available for manufacturing companies to use. Each type brings advantages and capabilities that make it better suited for certain materials. Gas, fiber and crystal laser cutters are three primary kinds of laser cutters used in various industries.

Below, you can find more information on these three main types of laser cutting machines:

  • Gas laser cutters: Gas laser cutters, sometimes referred to as carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers, cut material by using electrically stimulated CO2. They can pierce through thicker material than fiber lasers. A key advantage of these lasers is they provide a smoother finish when they cut thick materials. They’re the most popular type of laser cutter since they can cut several kinds of materials while also being inexpensive and efficient. Gas lasers can cut glass, leather, wood, acrylic, paper, some foams and some plastics. 
  • Crystal laser cutters: Using a combination of crystals — neodymium-doped yttrium orthovanadate and neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet — crystal lasers generate powerful beams. They’re well-suited for cutting strong and thick materials since their beams have a high intensity. The main downside to this laser is its higher power leads to frequent breakdowns. The materials these laser machines cut include metals, plastics and some ceramics.
  • Fiber laser cutters: A fiber laser cutter refers to a laser that utilizes an optical fiber doped in various rare elements, like thulium, holmium, praseodymium, dysprosium or erbium. The doped optical fiber combines and condenses laser diodes into a strong cutting beam. Compared to gas laser cutters, fiber models are much more energy-efficient and can cut reflective materials without the danger of back reflections. They also require less maintenance, are cheaper and last longer than crystal lasers. Fiber laser cutters can cut metals and plastics. 

What Is a Laser Cutter Used For?

Laser cutters can be used in various applications. They’re most commonly employed for manufacturing tasks, but hobbyists, small businesses, schools and even hospitals use laser cutting tools for different purposes. 

One of the top uses for laser cutters is cutting metal. Metal is a necessity in many different industries, so laser metal cutting is quite common. An example of this is when a company shapes a cellphone case or car body. Additionally, some professionals use laser cutters to cut reflective metals, which can be more difficult than cutting other types of materials.

Another notable use for laser cutting is within the medical sector. The technique’s precision helps form highly advanced medical devices. Doctors even use it in surgery to vaporize human tissue in place of a scalpel. 

You’ll often see laser cutters assisting with marking and engraving objects. This process adds intricate designs to an item, raising its aesthetic value. You can often see people employing laser engraving and laser marking methods for creating jewelry and wooden signs.

Additionally, those in the microelectronics, semiconductors and solar industries use laser cutters to cut silicon. The precise nature of laser cutting makes it easy to form the silicon and produce smaller silicon products.

Contact APX York Sheet Metal for Laser Cutting Services

APX York Sheet Metal is a premier laser cutting company in central Pennsylvania, and we’re ready to take your metal fabrications to the next level. We have more than 70 years of laser cutting and metal bending experience guiding our services, ensuring you get only the best custom metal fabrications available on the market. We’re always happy to provide advice on laser cutting and deliver reliable and efficient services.

Contact us today to find out how we can help with your precision laser cutting needs. One of our representatives will be happy to discuss how we can earn your business and provide you with top-quality metal fabricated parts.

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