As you can probably guess based on the name, a laser cutter is used to cut patterns and designs into materials with a beam of energy that either melts, burns or vaporizes different materials. They are very useful for getting highly accurate, intricate or difficult designs etched into a range of different materials.
Laser cutters can be calibrated to create different designs and patterns and are ideal for materials such as wood, glass, paper, metal and plastic. They are highly versatile and can create intricate designs without the need for many different specialised tools. Laser cutters use a very thin and highly focused beam to cut shapes and patterns into materials.
A brief history
The laser cutter was invented by Kumar Patel who first began to research the technology in 1961 when he joined Bell Labs, by 1963 he had begun work on the C02 laser cutter which nowadays had the most modern-day applications of any type of system. The modern-day systems are used to engrave and etch materials such as acrylic, wood, cardboard and even MDF.
So what is a laser cutter used for? They are used in a variety of industries such as home design, electronics industries, medicine, aerospace, automotive industries and they’re also used for stationary, décor, appliances and met cutting. Additionally, they’re used as semiconductors and are used for cutting silicones, ceramics and other materials. One of the newest uses for them is in surgery which is being used in place of the scalpel for high precision procedures.
How it works
These systems work by pointing a beam usually between 0.1 and 0.3 mm in diameter at material to cut it. The power of the laser cutter may need to be adjusted depending on the thickness or reflectiveness of the material. Materials with heat conductive properties are not always the best to use with the systems as they conduct a lot of heat and need very powerful machines.
They work by using something called a resonator which emanates the beam through and airtight glass tube which contains gases such as C02 and hydrogen, nitrogen and helium. The light is focused by mirrors which forces the beam through a curved lens to turn it into a single point , the beam contains highly concentrated gases like nitrogen and oxygen which can melt or cut materials. The cutting head is most often controlled by a chain that allows the laser cutter to make very precise movements in a small area.
When it comes to the system the plate and the nozzle is important, it impacts on the focal point and can impact on the quality of the cut, the intensity of the beam and the speed at which it cuts the material.
Types of systems
There are different kinds of machines available on the market which are useful for different applications. High powered machines are great for professional uses such as cutting plastics or metals whilst lowered powered machines are great for thinner materials such as plastic, card, papers and wood.
C02 machines are the most popular as they create a smoother finish and are less expensive. They’re also good for cutting and mastering a wide variety of materials. There are also crystal machines which are great for stronger and thicker materials. There are also fiber machines which are much more energy-efficient than other machines and are great for cutting reflective materials. They are cheaper and longer-lasting than high powered crystal machines, and much more efficient.
Out of all the options, C02 machines are the most common for both hobbyists and professionals.