In previous years, laser cutting was dominated by CO2 and YAG laser technology. However, most of these these manufacturing processes have now been replaced with modern fiber lasers.
The main advantages of fiber laser technology compared to CO2 are as follows:
- Fiber lasers are very energy efficient. The energy conversion from electricity to beam is far better than that of CO2.
- Much less fiber laser maintenance is required, and is easier than with 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 removes the need to replace and align mirrors – a time-consuming and expensive aspect of CO2 cutting.
- The power is greater with fiber laser. The wavelength of the fiber laser is 1 nanometer as opposed to 10.7 nanometers with CO2 lasers, meaning that the cutting power is focused on a much smaller area. The beam with a smaller diameter achieves higher energy density. The fiber laser also has a longer focal length than CO2. These features provide better cutting performance in terms of cutting speed, intricate detail, and cutting thickness.
- With CO2, cutting aluminum, copper, brass, and other such metals is difficult because these metals are highly reflective when they are molten, and part of the CO2 beam is reflected back. This leads to slower cutting and piercing, and can lead to serious damage to the CO2 laser cutting head and the optical mirrors. Replacing, repairing and realigning CO2 mirrors and cutting head components is a high-tech operation with long downtimes. Reflection is not a problem with the narrow wavelength range of fiber lasers. Fiber lasers therefore make it possible to cut any metal, including highly reflective ones, at incredible speed without energy loss or equipment damage.