A laser cutter is a CNC(Computer Numerical Control) machine that uses laser technology to cut materials. It replaces the traditional mechanical knife with a laser, the mechanical part of the laser head has no contact with the workpiece. In terms of cutting, it has many advantages: Fast cutting speed, Narrow slit, Small heat affected zone, good vertical edge of the slit, Cutting a variety of materials. Because of its ease of use and low cost, laser cutting machines are becoming more and more popular.
Table of Contents
How does a laser cutter work?
The laser cutting machine gathers the laser beam through the focusing mirror into a small spot and then projects it onto the surface of the material (usually metal) to reach a high power at the focus. At this time, the material is quickly heated to the vaporization temperature. The material evaporates to form a hole, and as the beam moves relatively linearly with the material, the hole is continuously formed into a slit having a narrow width, thereby achieving the purpose of cutting the material.
During the cutting process, the nozzle sprays the auxiliary gas from the direction parallel to the beam to blow away the slag to ensure the quality of the laser cutting. Under the driving of the motor, the cutting head moves according to a predetermined route, thereby cutting out the workpieces of various shapes.
What materials can a laser cutter cut?
Laser cutting machines are mainly divided into CO2 laser cutting machines and fiber cutting machines. Their main difference is in cutting different materials. CO2 laser machines are mainly used to cut non-metals. Fiber laser cutting machines are mainly used to cut metal.
Fiber laser cutting machine for metal
Fiber laser cutting machine is a cnc machine that uses a fiber laser generator as a light source. It has characteristics of fast speed and high accuracy. It is used to cut metal, such as: carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloy, aluminum, titanium and titanium alloy, nickel alloy and other metal materials.
Note: Fiber laser cutting machines are not suitable for cutting copper.
- Carbon steel
The laser cutting system can cut the maximum thickness of carbon steel plate nearly 20mm, and the slit of the plate can be narrowed to about 0.1mm. For low-carbon steel, it has a very small heat-affected zone and good verticality. For high-carbon steel, laser cutting trimming quality is better than low-carbon steel, but its heat affected zone is more.
- Stainless steel
The laser cutting machine makes it easy to cut stainless steel sheets. With high-power laser cutting tubes, the maximum thickness of stainless steel can be up to 10mm.
- Alloy steel
Most alloy steels can be cut with a laser and the trimming quality is good. However, tool steels and hot-mould steels with high tungsten content will have corrosion and slag during laser cutting.
The aluminum cutting is a etching, and the auxiliary gas will blow away the debris during cutting.
CO2 laser cutting machine for non-metal
CO2 laser cutting machine uses the vibration of carbon dioxide molecules and the transition between the rotational energy levels to generate laser. It is usually used to cut non-metallic materials, such as wood, acrylic, cloth, bamboo products, leather, plastic, etc.
Some CO2 laser cutting machines can cut metal and non-metal, which called mixed laser cutting machine.
How thick can a laser cutter cut?
With the development of laser technology, the cutting thickness of laser cutting machines is also constantly breaking through. Since the laser cutting machine can cut a lot of materials, so different materials are different thickness, and the power of the laser cutting machine also affects the thickness.
- For fiber laser cutting machine (metal): carbon steel-32mm, stainless steel-25mm. As the power of fiber laser cutting machine continues to increase, the cutting thickness of various metal materials is also constantly improving.
- For CO2 laser cutting machine, for example: acrylic-35mm, the maximum thickness of wood can reach 40mm.
Laser Cutter VS Laser Engraver
Both are use the energy-dissolving material of the laser to get the shape we want, but they also have many differences:
- Function: The main function of the laser cutting machine is cutting, but most laser engraving machines can both engrave and cut.
- Power: The power of the laser engraving machine is generally 80W, 100W, etc, while the power of the metal laser cutting machine is at least 500w.
- Cutting material: Laser cutting machines are used to cut metals such as steel plates, stainless steel plates, aluminum, copper, etc. Laser engraving machines mainly cut non-metallic materials such as leather, fabrics, bamboo and so on.
- Size: The length of the laser cutting machine is about 5 meters, and the cutting area is about 3X1.5 m. The size of the laser engraving machine is small, the length and width are about 1.5 meters, the height is more than 1 m, and the effective working area is about 1.3×1 meters.
- Price: The price of laser engraving machines is much cheaper than cutting machines.
8 Advantages of laser cutter
1, High Precision
Laser cutting machine uses a focused laser beam for cutting, the spot formed by the laser beam is small, so the processing accuracy is high. The precision and fineness of the patterns processed by the laser cutting machine is no less than that of manual cutting and engraving. The processed products generally do not require subsequent processing.
2, High Speed
Because laser cutting uses a high-power density laser beam to work, its cutting speed can reach more than 100 times that of wire cutting. Of course, the speed of laser cutting is controllable and adjustable.
3, Strong Flexibility
The flexibility of laser cutting machines is reflected in 3 aspects.
- The laser cutting machine can perform laser cutting or laser engraving, and quickly change the production method according to production needs.
- As long as the patterns are generated on the computer, even complex patterns can be carved out finely.
- The laser head can automatically move up and down, back and forth, and can process flat workpieces, as well as spherical and other special-shaped workpieces.
4, Good Cutting Quality
The traditional cutting method is a contact processing method, which not only causes greater damage to the material, but also lowers the quality of the cut, and must undergo secondary processing to make the surface smooth. The laser cutting machine is a non-contact processing method, the cutting seam is smooth and beautiful, the edges are free of burrs, no subsequent processing is required, the heat-affected zone is small, the deformation is not easy, the damage to the material is almost zero, and the processing cost is reduced.
5,Simple and Convenient Operation
The laser cutting machine only needs to input the designed cutting pattern into the computer, and then the pattern is imported to the worktable of the laser cutting machine, and the equipment will automatically perform cutting processing without manual intervention.
6, Long Service Life
The laser cutting machine works stably. Generally speaking, a laser cutting machine can be used for 7 to 8 years or even more than 10 years. Except for human factors and environmental factors, almost no system failure will occur.
7, Low Maintenance Cost
The laser cutting machine has only two consumables: laser tube and lens. As long as the daily maintenance of the machine is done well, it can not only extend the service life of the machine, but also reduce the failure rate of the machine, reduce the damage of consumables, and thus reduce the maintenance cost.
Laser machines generally have customized services. You can customize a machine according to your needs, such as whether you need to add a rotating shaft, the number of laser heads, the working area of the machine, and the color of the case. If you have special requirements, you can tell our service staff and we will try our best to meet your requirements.
8, Wide Range of Applications
(1) Material applications. CO2 laser cutting machine is used to cut non-metallic materials, such as wood, bone, cloth, paper, acrylic. Fiber laser cutter is used to cut metal materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum alloy, titanium alloy, and copper.
(2) Industry applications: Nowadays, most of the production and processing industries have its presence, and it is even one of the necessary equipment for many enterprises. Small laser cutting machines are suitable for clothing, cloth toys, packaging and printing industries, and large laser cutting machines are suitable for agricultural machinery, automobiles, aerospace and other industries.
What is a laser cutter used for?
1, Automobile Industry
It takes several years for a car to go from design to mass production. Because of the advantages of fast speed and high precision of laser cutting, and the wide range of automobile industry, laser cutting has become one of the most commonly used processes in various stages of automobile production. In addition, the edges cut by the laser cutter are smooth and precise, which can improve product quality and reduce material waste, and the maintenance is also low. So that not only in automobile industry, but also in other manufacturing industries, the laser cutter is often used.
2, Advertising Industry
With the rapid development of the commodity economy, the advertising industry has become more and more prosperous. Whether on the street or in buildings, advertising signs can be seen everywhere. It is the promotion and application of the laser cutter that vigorously promoted the development and reformation. The laser cutter with the advantages of simple and flexible operation, high cutting accuracy, fast speed and low operation and maintenance costs in the advertising industry, has gradually become the most commonly used process in the advertising industry.
3, Clothing Industry
Modern people not only have higher requirements for clothing materials, but also need more and more novel and refined patterns and designs. Using laser to cut, not only can cut out clearer and smoother edge, but also can be used to cut fabrics in large area. Because of high accuracy and saving raw materials, it is suitable for small clothing production lines and high fashion production. For some complicated patterns and tailoring, laser cutting( engraving) is undoubtedly the best choice.
4, Jewelry Industry
Each pair of lovers, parents want to customize a unique diamond ring or jewelry for their partner or child. Someone engrave their anniversaries to leave an eternal testimony of love, someone engrave their names on behalf of remembering them forever, and someone custom unique shapes to express unique love. Nowadays, customizing jewelry starts to receive people’s favor. The high precision and small incision width of laser cutting make it possible to engrave filaments with very small radius and complex design patterns for very small substance. The edge of laser cutting is round, smooth and mellow, which can save a lot of raw materials and time. Using laser to make personalized jewelry is simple and fast, which is a very cost-effective manufacturing craft.
In addition to the four industries mentioned above, the laser cutter has many other applications. With economic development, technological progress and innovation, more functions and applications will be developed, and will gradually become one of the most commonly used processes in various industries.
How Much Does a Laser Cutter Cost?
When you plan to buy a laser cutting machine, I think the price is important to you. Generally, the price of fiber laser cutter is higher than CO2 laser cutter. Because for cutting metal, more advanced and more precise lasers are needed. In addition, depending on the thickness of material, you need to choose a laser cutting machine with different power, and their price are difference. For the cutting of large materials, you need to buy a laser cutting machine with a larger working area, and the price will increase as the cutting area increases.
Where can i buy a laser cutter?
We compared the different suppliers selling the laser cutter, which are listed here, you can refer to it.
Since many of the companies that sell laser cutter come from China, Alibaba is the choice of many people to buy. Let us look at the price of the laser cutter sold on Alibaba. (Alibaba is an important way for Chinese suppliers to sell globally).
In Alibaba, the large laser cutting machine (fiber laser cutting machine) costs 2,0000-4,0000 dollars, and the small laser cutting machine (CO2 laser cutting machine) is much cheaper, they only need 2000-4000 dollars. Depending on how you cut the different materials, you need to choose a different power laser cutting machine.
If you want to buy in Alibaba, you must choose carefully because there are many distributors on Alibaba, their products are very expensive. In addition, you have to choose a good seller. If you don’t know how to use it, then you know how important it is after sales.
If you want to buy a small or mini laser cutter, Amazon is a good choice, and on Amazon you can buy products from around the world. For mini laser cutter, you can put it on the table. Prices are generally below $1,000. Generally, mini laser cutting machine can only be used by individuals. If you want to do business, you need to buy a medium or large laser cutting machine.
3. Buy directly from the manufacturer
Many manufacturers have a website to sell laser cutting machines. At the supplier, you can buy high quality products at an affordable price. The only thing you need to pay attention to is picking a good manufacturer. I think there are two aspects that are most important: Quality and Service.
The cost of laser cutter parts
After consulting different laser cutting machine suppliers, you will find that for the same model of laser cutting machine, but the price given by the seller is different. Because the supplier uses different accessories, they have different costs, so you should be careful of those low-priced laser engraving machines, their quality may not be good.
Laser cutting machine’s accessories mainly have the following parts, which determine the price of laser cutting machine.
- Laser tube
The laser tube is the core of the laser cutting machine. Different brands of laser tubes have different prices. The service life of high-quality laser tubes can reach 5000 hours.
- Laser lens
The laser lens is related to the function of the laser cutting machine. The cutting effect and service life of different quality laser lenses are different. Wipe the laser head frequently to ensure that it is clean and can extend its service life, otherwise the laser will damage the laser head.
Motor is an important part of the laser cutting machine, which determines the cutting accuracy of the laser cutting machine. Ask the seller for details before buying.
CO2 Laser cutter VS. Fiber Laser cutter
CO2 laser cutting machine is more professional when it comes to processing non-metal materials. On the other hand, fiber laser cutting machine has better versatility with metal parts processing.
Prices of laser cutting machines vary and depend on the type, power, and model of the machine. If you’re planning to cut a metallic or thick material, we recommend going for a high power laser rather than the one you will use to cut thin materials. However, the prices of lasers increases as the wattage increase. You need to know how to balance price and quality.
While CO2 lasers have the ability to process some slightly thin metals like stainless and carbon steel, their cutting power does not go past 3mm, which is altogether less than that of its counterparts. The beam produced by fiber laser is tighter and in another level of the light spectrum. This way, the fiber laser can easily mark and cut medium that is difficult for other lasers to do. Undoubtedly this will require more time and power, and in fact, more raw materials because of its negative effect on products.
How much do you need to run a laser cutting machine?
Running a laser cutting machine includes investing in different laser equipment, maintenance fees, daily energy consumption, labor costs, and consumables, with each of these determining the overall performance of the machine.
If you’re planning to manufacture products that require a high level of precision, accuracy, and smooth cutting effect, then we recommend laser equipment. Unlike engraving, you will need to spend more money to run a laser cutting machine because it consumes more power. In power consumption, for example, cutting is much faster than engraving, but engraving does not consume power like cutting would do.
Estimated, CO2 last cutting machine costs up to $0.5 per hour, unlike the $0.25 per hour. Hence each comes with its strength. Furthermore, before you choose a cutting machine, be sure to factor in the cost of maintenance and prioritize its function and quality.
Don’t go for cheap machines with poor workability and higher maintenance level. This could cost you more time and finance.
Maintaining your machine daily should generally take less than 15 minutes, along with weekly cleaning. How frequent you clean the machine will depend on the material of the machine. And in some cases, you will need to clean the lenses and realign the machine carefully. This maintenance will not interrupt your production management as you could do it during non-working hours.
Considering all these costs, purchasing a new laser cutting machine is a cost-effective choice as it requires low running costs and maintenance, increasing your company’s productivity level.
Laser Cutter Buying Guide 2021
Here are several tips for customers to choose a laser cutter.
1, Material, Size and Thickness
Before purchasing a machine, you must fist consider what kind of material is the item being cut. If it is non-metallic material, you should choose CO2 laser cutter. Or you should choose fiber laser cutter for metal. Secondly, it is necessary to select a machine of appropriate size according to the area of the item to be cut.
Except for the material and size, the thickness of the item to be cut must also be considered. The greater thickness, the great power is required by the machine. For example, a 100w machine can cut material with 8-10mm thickness, a 150w machine can cut materials with 15mm thickness, and a 180w machine can cut materials with 18-19mm thickness.
Here are some of suggestions:
- Laser cutting machine is used to cut decorative, advertising, lamps, kitchen utensils, thin sheet metal parts, electrical cabinets, elevator panels, engineering panels, high and low switch cabinet processing materials. These materials are generally thin, so you can use medium power (500w) laser cutting machine.
- Laser cutting machines are used to cut plastic (polymer), rubber, wood, paper products, leather and natural or synthetic organic materials. Since these materials are not metal products, it is best to use CO2 laser cutting machine.
- Laser cutting machine is used to cut low carbon steel and stainless steel with thickness of 8-20mm. These materials need to purchase high-power laser cutting machine to ensure good cutting effect.
Sometimes high price dose not mean good quality. If the budget is limited, you can also find the best machines within the budget. You’d better consider various brands in order to select the most valuable machine with low price for yourself.
3, After-sale service
After-sales service is related to whether the customer can receive the goods in time, master the use of machines adroitly, and subsequent maintenance, service life. Of course, after-sales service also includes whether the merchant can answer questions raised by customers in a timely manner, the attitude of the merchant，and if the received goods are damaged, the merchant can handle with it in the first time. Customers can make analysis and selection by asking the merchant questions on the website or looking up the evaluations of other customers.
Here are recommended laser cutter, click to view: Best Laser Cutter For Small Business in 2021.
Bonus: 5 Common Mistakes in Laser Cutting and How to Solve Them
Laser cutting is one of the most effective ways to cut various materials for processing and has been widely used in society. Although laser cutting is a more environmentally friendly and safe cutting method, improper use is not only easy to cause damage to the machine, but also to other dangers. The following are 5 common using mistakes and solutions compiled by EmitLaser.
1, Cut or Engraved Improper Materials
As we all know, laser engraving and cutting machines can cut many kinds of materials. However, if the metal material is cut with a CO2 laser cutting machine, not only will it have no effect, it will also cause damage to the laser head and lens. If a fiber cutting machine is used to cut non-metallic materials, it will easily cause damage to non-metallic materials due to its higher power.
In addition to using the corresponding materials according to the function of the machine, it is also necessary to avoid cutting materials that go against regulations. These non-compliant materials may produce toxic gas, change color, or catch fire after thermal processing, causing personal damage. The following are the sorted materials that cannot be cut by laser and the reasons.
How to Solve it?
#1, Cut the material according to the function of the machine itself. If it is non-metallic material, use a carbon dioxide laser cutting machine, and use an optical fiber cutting machine for metal materials. Of course, a mixed cutting machine can also be used, which can cut non-metallic materials, stainless steel, and carbon steel.
#2, If cutting the rusty iron plate, the iron plate needs to be removed rust before cutting.
#3, For the poor cutting effect, toxic gas, or melting or fire produced by laser cutting machines, the materials can be cold-processed, such as woodworking engraving machine, waterjet cutting machine, etc.
- For non-metallic materials with high hardness such as glass, stone, ceramics, etc., only engraving can be performed, not cutting.
- Do not process a certain material before it is clear whether it can be irradiated or heated by a laser, so as to avoid burning or producing toxic smog.
2, Frost Crack of Laser Tube
This problem is common in areas with low winter temperatures. Many people will ignore machine maintenance in winter. The climate is cold in winter, especially when the temperature reaches below zero, the coolant in the laser tube is easy to freeze. After freezing, the volume of ice will increase and the laser tube will be cracked.
How to Solve it?
#1, Drain the water in the laser tube in winter and pour it into antifreeze. Antifreeze is similar to oil, which can cool and prevent freezing.
#2, Maintain the ambient temperature, preferably between 6 and 32 degrees Celsius.
Note: Antifreeze can not replace distilled water or deionized water as the coolant. After winter, replace the antifreeze with distilled water and clean the pipeline with distilled water.
3, Not Paying Attention to Maintenance of Machine Parts
The normal service life of a machine can reach 7 to 8 years or even more than ten years, but the usual careless maintenance of the machine will reduce the service life of the machine. The following are maintenance items that are easily overlooked.
- The working environment of the laser cutting and engraving machine is dusty, and some materials will produce smoke. If things go on like this, soot and dust will accumulate on the surface of the lens, and the transmittance of the lens will decrease. Not only does the cutting efficiency and quality decrease, but the high-intensity laser can easily break the lens.
Solutions: Wipe the lens frequently to keep the lens clean, being careful to use absorbent cotton dipped in ethanol to gently wipe the lens to avoid damage to the coating on the lens surface; open the doors and windows when the laser cutting machine is working, which is conducive to the emission of soot and dust.
- If the guide rail is not properly maintained, it may rust. If the guide rail is rusty, the working speed of the machine will slow down and the precision of engraving and cutting will decrease.
Solution: Often wipe some oil for the guide rail to prevent rust.
- If the wrong coolant is selected, the incrustation scale will be generated in the chiller and the waterway will be blocked, which will affect the normal operation and service life of the machine.
Solution: Choose distilled water or deionized water as the coolant. Because the distilled water contains very few minerals, there is very little incrustation scale produced by long-term water circulation, which will protect the laser tube very well.
- The blower will accumulate a lot of dust after long time use, which will affect the dust removal and smoke exhaust effect of the machine, and it will also produce noise.
Solution: Turn off the power when the blower is found to have insufficient wind power and poor smoke exhaust. Remove the air inlet and outlet pipes on the fan to remove the dust inside, then turn the fan upside down and move the fan blades inside until it is clean. Fans generally need to be cleaned once a month.
4, Bad cutting effect
Sometimes you may encounter this situation: the purchased machine is very suitable for cutting a material when it is replaced with another material, the cutting edge of the material will be yellow and have obvious burn marks.
Solutions: The first step is to check whether the material can be cut with a laser cutting machine; the second step is to check whether the blowing volume is sufficient. If not enough, increase the blowing volume; the third step is to check whether the machine power or the moving speed of the laser head is appropriate. The power of each machine can be adjusted, which can reduce the power or speed up the movement of the laser head.
There is also a situation that the machine you purchased is suitable for cutting a certain material, but the actual cutting effect is poor or the cutting is not thorough.
- The light path has deviated, so adjust the light path;
- The lens transmittance is poor, so wipe the lens;
- The adjusted machine power is too small, so increase the machine power.
5, Incorrect Use of the Machine
In addition to the daily maintenance of the machine, the use of the machine and the maintenance after use will also affect it. Improper use will not only cause damage to the machine, but also reduce the service life of the machine, and even cause harm to the operator.
- The operator must be trained, familiar with the structure and performance of the machine, and master the relevant knowledge of the operating system;
- Be sure to confirm that the cooling system has been operating normally before work;
- Operators are not allowed to leave their posts or entrusted to take care of them when the machine is started. If they really need to leave, they should stop the machine or cut off the power switch;
- Keep fire extinguishers and keep them within easy reach;
- When an abnormality is found during processing, the machine should be shut down immediately, and the malfunction should be eliminated in time and then the machine should be restarted;
- When the machine is working, do not adjust the electric current, do not reach under the laser head or between the lens and the laser head;
- Do not use laser cutting and engraving machines during thunderstorms;
- Don’t overload the machine. The engraving machine needs to be stopped for half an hour after three hours of continuous operation; the laser or shutter should be turned off when not processing.
- Ensure that the safe voltage is used, and the power supply must meet the requirements.
- When the machine is working, keep the working table and guide rail of the machine clean and free of foreign matter.
The above are the 5 common mistakes and solutions when using laser cutting and engraving machines. If you encounter other difficulties while using the machine and do not know how to solve it, Llease leave a message.