How Laser Cutting Works

How Laser Cutting Works

There are endless methods in which someone can use to cut material. There are even multiple types of laser cutting that can be applied to a job. Lasers are not used solely for cutting. They can be used for drilling, marking, or engraving as well.

What is Cutting with a Laser?

In the simplest of terms, it is defined as the cutting of various materials using a laser beam. A high-intensity light is made up of a single infra-red wavelength. This light structure is contained within the constructs of a CNC housing mechanism, becoming a directed and controlled beam of light.

In the technical sense of the phrase, the process is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Why Use It?

Cutting material with a laser beam provides a cleaner, more precise cut on the finished product. The use of a laser beam cuts a smaller, much thinner line, creating less wasted material. The process directs the heat needed to create a direct and focused point of contact, a safer method of precision cutting. By applying more direct pressure using a smaller area of contact, the cut becomes that much more precise than alternative cutting measures, such as torch or plasma cutting.

Other benefits over its counter options include its non-contact process, leaving the material with less damage surrounding the first cut.

How Does it Work?

Laser cutting starts in a CNC machine. Inside the machine, multiple mirrors hang in specific positions that allow the beam to bounce off. The beam travels from the resonator through the machine and into a copper tip located inside the CNC housing. Before beginning the cut, the copper tip travels down to the material, determines the resistance between itself and the material to be cut. The tip then self-adjusts to the desired cut height set up in programing and accounts for variations in the material. From there, the beam can focus on the piece of material prepared for cutting.

What Can Lasers Cut?

This process of cutting is such a precise and technical method; it is used for almost any type of material desired. Many think it can only be used for hard materials such as metals, steel, and titanium and even gemstones. While they are correct in a sense, CNC programmed lasers can also cut nonmetallic material such as woods, silicone, glass, and plastics.

Not only are the materials virtually limitless when cutting, but the laser can also cut intricate corners, shapes, and holes out of selected materials. Cutting with a laser creates highly accurate and repeatable cuts every time.

What are the Methods of Laser Cutting?

Cutting through the material may require different methods, depending on the desired outcome. One option is a continuous wave cut, which closely resembles more melting away the material than cutting. The second option is using a pulsed beam.

The pulsed method directs less consistent heat over the material and instead triggers a pulsing tactic to apply repeat cutting to one location, for example, to cut a deep hole through thick material. These methods require the combined use of a gas such as nitrogen or oxygen to assist with the direct heat.

Along with continuous and pulsed type cutting, machinists also have the option of using CO2, crystal, and fiber laser cutting methods. Each cutting method has its benefits and power.

The overall process includes the use of a high-intensity light beam, invisible to the human eye, to stream the heat and light onto a piece of material and create a cut into it. It is precision at its best.

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Latest Issue

How Laser Cutting Works
BDC October 2022 issue - 297

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