Laser Cutting Overview
Due to the Strategic Defense Initiative program in the 1980’s, large investments were made toward the development of laser technology. A laser is a special type of light beam where power is implemented on the work piece accurately and without contact. The focused energy heats the material quickly, it begins to melt and vaporize. The material is kept out of the cutting groove with a blast of gas; this process is called laser cutting.
Laser cutting systems have come a long way in the last few years. Fifteen to twenty years ago, steel of 2-3 mm could only be cut with great difficulty and no one dreamed cutting steel 10 mm thick would be possible. Now, 20-25 mm steel can be cut. Several years after entering the market with sheet metal processing, the oxide-free method of cutting chromium nickel steel came into use. This awakened the desire for even higher capacity, bringing about the rapid development of laser power from 500 watt in those days to approximately 6000 watt of today.
The ever increasing quality of the laser sources meant that process reliability could also be raised with many systems operating round the clock. The recent tendency toward smaller batches and the improved speed of the drives has enabled laser cutting systems to take over an increasing amount of market share from punching machines.
The laser cutting systems still cut approximately 70% steel, but the share of stainless steel and aluminum is becoming larger. The invention of reflection absorbers and higher power means that non-ferrous metals such as copper, bronze and brass can now also be cut. Plexiglas, rubber, wood and plastic can be cut as well.