In years past, laser cutting was dominated by CO2 and YAG laser technology. Today, however, these manufacturing processes have been, for the most part, supplanted by modern fiber lasers.
Fiber laser superiority over CO2 is primary found in the following ways:
- Fiber laser is very energy efficient. The energy transfer from electricity to beam is far better than that of CO2.
- Fiber laser maintenance is significantly less frequent and easier than CO2. Fiber lasers do not use mirrors to change the direction of the beam. Instead, the fiber laser uses a special fiber optic cable. This eliminates the need to replace and align mirrors – a time consuming and expensive aspect of CO2 cutting.
- Power is greater for fiber laser. The wavelength of the fiber laser is 1 nanometer as opposed to 10.7 nanometer for CO2 laser, meaning the cutting power is focused on a far smaller area. The smaller diameter beam achieves higher energy density. In addition, the fiber laser has a longer focal length than CO2. These features create better cutting performance in terms of cut speed, intricate detail, and cut thickness.
- With CO2, cutting aluminum, copper, brass, and other such metals is difficult because these metals in molten state are highly reflective, and a portion of the CO2 beam is reflected back, causing slow cutting, slow piercing, and the potential to cause serious damage to the CO2 laser cutting head and optical mirrors. Replacing, repairing and realigning CO2 mirrors and cutting head components is a high-tech and high-downtime operation. Fiber laser’s tight wavelength do not exhibit this reflection problem. Therefore, fiber laser enables cutting of all metals, even those that are highly reflective, at incredible speed without the energy loss or equipment damage.