Not too long ago lasers were considered distinctly sci-fi. Extra-terrestrials were often depicted vaporising earthlings with laser guns. Up until the 1960s lasers were relegated to the far-fetched storylines of blockbuster science fiction movies, novels and comic books.
Lasers are part of modern living
In the past 50 years, lasers have become part of our day to day lives. Surgeons use powerful laser beams to reattach retinas with pinpoint precision. All our groceries and retail goods are scanned by lasers at cash out points. CDs and DVDs use advanced laser technology to generate high quality sound.
High powered industrial engineering lasers are successfully used in the plastics and metal processing sectors. Laser printers etch or inscribe plastic or metal parts and components. Laser cutters are widely used to deliver precise cuts in a range of materials fast and efficiently without damaging the workpiece.
Types of laser cutting machines
Engineers have integrated lasers into advanced machine design to develop machines that are capable of high repetition. Over time, different lasers have been designed to generate different results.
CO2 lasers are typically used for industrial boring, cutting and engraving. They deliver accurate results across a wide variety of materials including plastics, wood, fabrics and paper to titanium, aluminium and stainless steel.
Neodymium (Nd) lasers are primarily used for boring. This laser is ideal for tasks that require high energy but low repetition.
Neodymium yttrium-aluminium garnet lasers (Nd-YAG) deliver the highest power of all and are predominantly used for engineering, boring and welding.
How laser cutters work
To generate a laser beam, a lashing material is stimulated by electrical discharges or by lamps concealed within a closed container. As the material becomes agitated, the beam is reflected internally via a mirror until it generates enough energy to escape as a laser beam or a stream of monochromatic or single wavelength coherent light.
Fibre optics or mirrors are usually used to direct the beam to a lens which focuses the laser beam onto the work piece. As the narrowest part of the beam can be less than .32 mm diameter high precision cuts are achieved time and time again.
Why use laser cutters
Lasers cutters are rapid, reliable and capable of processing virtually all materials. They deliver parts and components that are precise and beautifully finished. Workpieces are seldom contaminated and there is no real risk of warping as laser cutters only generate minute areas affected by heat.