What is a Laser Cutter and How Does it Work?

Laser cutting technology is mostly used in the manufacturing sectors by engineers and designers although this is becoming increasingly popular amongst small businesses, schools and hobbyists alike. Laser cutters have a lot of benefits and applications and in this article, I would be talking about what a laser cutter is and how it does work.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser Cutting is the process whereby a laser beam is used for cutting and piercing through materials so as to cut out complex shapes, patterns, and geometries that have been specified by designers. The materials that can be cut using a laser cutter range from light materials like clothes, paper, and wood to tougher ones such as metals and gemstones. Laser cutters help to deliver an accurate and smooth finish due to the high level of control that it offers.

Types of Laser Cutters

There are three main types of laser cutters; fiber laser cutters, CO2 laser cutters, and the crystal laser cutters.

Fiber Laser Cutter

Fiber lasers belong to the solid state group and are made from “seed laser” which is amplified using special pump diodes and glass fibers. These lasers are mostly employed in the laser marking processes. They can be used to cut both metal and non-metal materials such as plastics and metals. Fiber lasers are cheaper to maintain and they tend to last longer compared to other types.

CO2 Lasers

This type of laser is the most commonly used of the three types of lasers that we have, this is due to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive and they can be used to cut a wide variety of materials.

Crystal Laser Cutters

There are two types of lasers used in this process; the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (nd: YAG) and the neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate (nd: YVO). These crystals have a wavelength of about 1.064mm which makes them suitable to cut both metals and non-metals. Crystal laser cutters are costly to maintain as they are made from expensive pump diodes which cost a lot to replace.

How Does a Laser Cutter Work?

Laser cutters can cut metal with high temperatures and make complex shapes but how do these lasers work exactly? Well, it starts with the use of two mirrors; a gain medium and a light source. Light enters the gain medium and excites the atoms inside to a higher state, after a while the atom would drop back down to the original state to emit a photon. The photon then creates a chain reaction which makes the other excited atoms emit their photons; soon we have a bunch of photons bouncing back and forth between these two layers. Since when the mirrors do not have a reflectivity of 100% some of the photons will pass through and create a laser. Now, that is a general concept of how lasers work.

Laser cutting is a very reliable and accurate cutting process and its benefits cannot be overemphasized. Laser cutters can cut precise shapes into metal with the use of laser beam machining in ways the traditional machining processes cannot that’s the beauty of lasers.