The way in which manufacturing companies manipulate raw materials into finished products is changing. Rather than cutting workpieces with a sharp tool bit, some companies now use lasers. Known as laser cutting, it involves the use of a high-powered laser to cut one or more holes in a workpiece. The laser’s heat is amplified and guided through optics, which points the heat to the area of the workpiece that needs cutting. Below are five fun facts about laser cutting technology.
#1) It’s Been Around Over a Half-Century
Although it sounds like a modern cutting process, laser cutting has actually been around for over a half-century. In the mid-1960s, researchers from the Western Electric Engineering Research Center produced the world’s first laser cutting machine, which was used to cut holes in diamonds.
#2) Some Laser Cutting Machines Can Perform Welding
Depending on the specific type, a laser cutting machine may be able to perform welding processes as well. There are three types of laser cutting machines: CO2, Nd and Nd:YAG. Of those three types, CO2 and Nd:YAG are both capable of performing welding processes. The only type of laser cutting machine that can’t perform welding processes is the Nd. With that said Nd laser cutting machines are ideal for applications in which little or no repetition is needed.
#3) Optical Lenses Focus the Laser to Just 0.001 Inches
The optical lenses used in laser cutting machines play an important role in this high-tech cutting process. They are able to focus the high-powered laser to an area on the workpiece just 0.001 inches in diameter. All of the heat generated by the laser is focused into this otherwise small area, allowing for high-precision cuts.
#4) It Requires a Substantial Amount of Power
Not surprisingly, laser cutting requires a substantial amount of power. According to Wikipedia, the efficiency rating of commercial laser cutting machines is just 5% to 45%. With that said, the actual amount of power consumed for laser cutting varies depending on the particular type of machine as well as the output settings for which it’s configured. When compared to other cutting processes, though, laser cutting requires a substantial amount of power.
#5) Some Laser Cutting Processes Use Gas
Melt and blow is a special type of laser cutting process that involves the use of gas. As the laser heats up the workpiece, pressurized gas blows across the surface to help facilitate the cutting process. Melt and blow is typically used to cut holes in metal workpiece, including steel, aluminum, iron and titanium.