Fiber versus CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser cutting

Have you considered the differences between a fiber and a CO2 laser cutter? Deciding which machine is best for your company can be a difficult decision and this article hopes to help you differentiate between the two and decide which would be best for the specific use you intend it for.

Fiber laser cutter

A fiber laser cutter machine works by using banks of diodes (diodes act to allow an electric current to block electric current in one direction and allow it to pass in another). The light that is created is then channeled and amplified through a fiber optic cable, straightened (or collimated – “aligned”) and then focused by a lens onto the material that you intend to cut. The light creation and delivery is roughly 200% more efficient and less complex than a CO2 laser cutter machine. There are also no moving parts, which can reduce both operating and maintenance costs. They are used for many different applications – material processing (cutting, engraving) as well as telecommunications. It is also preferred to cut copper, brass and aluminum due to no fear of the machine being damaged by back reflections. It was invented in 1963 by Elias Snitzer (after roughly 2 decades of development). They have an average output power of 2.0 to 4.0 kilowatt (kW).

CO2 laser cutter

A CO2 laser cutter is a type of gas laser. This is one of the earliest gas laser to be developed, in fact. It was invented in 1964 by Kumar Patel of Bell Labs. The electricity is run through a tube filled with gas that produces light. The light is focused with the use of mirrors, which causes the nitrogen to build in intensity, become excited and release infrared light.  A concern with CO2 laser cutters are that they have moving parts that are more likely to need to be replaced and they also consume more energy, which leads to a larger environmental impact. This can lead to a more expensive end cost for this machine. They are, however, very efficient – with a ratio of output to pump power up to 20%. They are mainly used for cutting and welding. They have an average output power of 2.2 to 6.0 kilowatt (kW).

In Summary

The most important thing to consider when choosing which laser cutter to use is the thickness of the material you need to cut. Fiber laser cutters can cut much quicker, especially materials from 1-2mm in thickness. CO2 laser cutters have a significant advantage when cutting thicker materials (above 5mm). It also produces a smoother surface.  If you want a quicker cut, choose fiber. If you need a thicker material cut, choose CO2. Fiber laser cutters seem to be the better emerging technology.

More subcontractors (nearly 70%) prefer the newer fiber technology laser cutter, especially those that are cutting thin metal. They are a good compliment to business that already has a CO2 laser cutter at their disposal to cut the thicker materials needed.

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