Laser cutting provides manufacturers with a more efficient method for creating complex shapes and small holes within metals such as stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum.
Manufacturers utilize laser cutting machines that contain a small kerf width and a small heat affect zone to create that extra attention to detail.
How a laser passes through steel requires a closer examination.
To gain a more thorough understanding of sheet metal laser cutting, we're going to examine the history of laser cutting and work our way up to more modern technology forms.
1960 marks the first year that lasers were introduced. It didn't take long to recognize the potential that new laser technology held.
History of Laser Cutting
Once it was observed that the first laser contained the ability to produce high energy, a focused beam of light that existed on a single wavelength, ideas for industrial use of lasers began to sprout.
Scientists and the public held split opinions on lasers after their introduction. The public viewed lasers as a potentially dangerous invention that could be manufactured as a weapon. Simultaneously, the scientific community began to recognize the practical ways in which lasers could be used.
Cutting metal became one of the first ways to utilize lasers for industrial use. Kumar Patel invented the first gas laser technology in 1964 through the use of a carbon dioxide concoction. 1964 continued to represent a vital year for laser technology growth as the crystal laser cutting process was introduced.
By the mid-1960s, laser cutting machines were used in diamond mines before making their way into the aerospace industry in the 1970s.
While carbon dioxide lasers made their mark as the first functioning laser, gas laser cutting made headway as a more efficient cutting method during the late 1960s and early 1970s—especially for materials such as metal.
1980s Laser Cutting-Modern Times
It's impressive to look back and see how quickly the laser cutting industry grew. By the 1980s, around 20 thousand laser cutting machines found their way into various sectors, which resulted in a 7.5 billion evaluation of the laser technology. Going from zero to billions of dollars in 20 years is a statistic that's impressive by any standard.
Steam and electric powered technology helped support the original industrial revolution, while the invention of laser technology helped spawn a new industrial revolution. As laser technology continues to progress, the possibilities are endless.
So, what is laser cutting technology commonly powered by today?
Types of Laser Cutting
Fiber lasers and CO2 are the two most commonly used forms of laser technology today. CO2 lasers are the most widely used, but more companies are beginning to integrate fiber lasers faster after their invention in 2008.
Electricity serves to stimulate carbon dioxide mixtures in gas or CO2 powered lasers. Gas laser cutting wasn't always as efficient as it is today. When gas laser cutting was invented in 1964, the technology didn't produce enough power to cut through metal. Nowadays, gas-powered lasers contain metal cutting capabilities through chemical elements such as nitrogen.
Crystal lasers are most similar to fiber lasers due to the technology's similar wavelength production. Fiber laser technology is more superior than crystal lasers due to the lower amount of maintenance involved.
The lifespan of fiber laser technology is much longer than crystal lasers and contains lower maintenance costs if parts break.
Let's take a closer look at how lasers function.
How Modern Laser Cutting Works
A CO2 laser is created in a machine's resonator and travels through the machine's beam path. As the laser travels through the beam path, the energy goes through a nozzle with compressed gas, such as oxygen or nitrogen.
If a manufacturer wants to be precise with their laser cutting, they have to focus the energy produced. Focusing laser beams is achieved through the use of specific lenses or curved mirrors. Once laser energy is focused, it can travel efficiently through the machine's nozzle.
If you're having trouble visualizing the energy focusing process, consider the example of using a magnifying lens to focus heat onto objects. Once lasers have their energy directed appropriately, the goal of cutting through materials such as metal becomes more attainable.
Laser power from fiber technology is created from diodes, which are electrical components that foster electric currency flow in a single direction. Fiber optic cables serve as a means to channel and strengthen the light produced.
Industries can use different techniques when utilizing laser cutting technology.
Different Laser Cutting Methods
Drilling is one of the most common laser cutting methods for producing holes or dents in metal materials
Marking consists of melting a material's surface layer to create a specific mark. Engraving is similar to marking, but the main difference here is the objective of leaving a more thoroughly engraved mark for processes such as labeling.
While the popularity of fiber lasers is growing, CO2 lasers still serve an essential role in supporting industries that include sheet metal cutting. Dane Manufacturing is an example of a company that utilizes some of the most modern and technologically advanced CO2 laser machines to produce products that serve our customers' needs.
Dane Manufacturing Laser Cutting Practices
The Trumpf TruFlow laser is used by Dane Manufacturing to create products that feature smooth cutting edges and negate the need for post-processing. Trumpf's TruLaser 3030 is the second example of a machine Dane Manufacturing uses to produce laser-cut parts.
Programmed software within the TruLaser 3030 guides the laser to create exceptional tolerances and parameters. Cutting tolerance is the small positional variance that takes place when sheet metal goes through the cutting process.
When it comes to seeking out assistance in sheet metal laser cutting, you want to have peace of mind that the manufacturer can deliver with consistency. The TruLaser 3030 is an example of a machine that contains a condition guide to update our dedicated operators with the technology's condition.
By utilizing laser cutting technology from Trumpf, Dane Manufacturing:
- Provides quality levels of output through the use of two lasers
- Creates sheet metal with perfect edges
- Offers a flexible layout to match product requirements
- Makes contours in thick mild steel
- Utilizes remainder sheets