Laser cutting is a method of accurately cutting or engraving different types of materials such as acrylic, stainless steel, wood and aluminium using an extremely high-powered and concentrated laser beam. This laser beam is controlled by a CNC, which is a Computer Numerically Controlled machine.
Laser cutting provides much more accurate and faster results than other traditional heat cutting methods.
The two primary types of lasers that are used in laser cutting are CO2 lasers and neodymium (Nd) and Neodymium yttrium-aluminium-garet (nd-YAG). CO2 lasers however, are the most widely and commonly used. CO2 lasers are lasers that function on a mixture of carbon dioxide gas that is then powered electrically and have an extremely high efficiency and feature an excellent quality of laser beam.
CO2 lasers work by emitting a laser beam from the specially designed laser tube. When a laser current is passed through this laser tube, the beam is reflected off mirrors that position the beam through a focal lesne that is located in the head of the machine. The laser cutting machine then focuses the beam onto a specific point on the surface of the material that has been programmed through the CNC. The laser then melts, vaporizes and burns the material and moves along a cutting line that the machine is provided with by the CNC. When this occurs, the laser leaves the material with a completely crisp and polished edge that requires no finishing.
Through the use of a focused cutting beam such as the CO2 laser, the amount of kerf, or the amount of material that was removed by the laser, is extremely minimal, especially when compared to an edge that has been created by traditional cutting tools such as blades. This also means that the amount of off-cuts and waste is dramatically reduced.
One of the major advantages of CO2 laser cutting is that there are various techniques that can be used to achieve different results. There are three main methods that CO2 lasers can produce.
Vector cutting is the method of laser cutting that is most commonly used. This application technique can cut a full incision through a material. This type of cut is programmed into a CNC which electronically produces a cutting line that the machine follows.
Vector engraving is a cut that is made to the surface level of the material that creates an outline. The Vector engraving method can create a design on the material and adds detail to patterns.
Engraving a design on a hard surface, especially to make a print.
Raster engraving, simply put is an infill engrave that produces a sealed vector shape. In this method, the laser works similar to that of an inkjet printer. The laser moves from end to end and the laser turns off and on again quickly and gradually moves the line up.
The functions and uses for CO2 laser cutting and engraving are unlimited. One of the best advantages of laser cutting is that there are an endless amount of opportunities to completely customise the patterns of designs. No matter how big, small or intricate the shapes or holes may be, the laser cutter can accurately cut most materials, with the least amount of excess possible.
Laser cutting gives you the freedom to change elements of your design easily and without any fuss. Changes that are needed can simply be made through directly changing the programming without the need to change any tools.