What Is The Laser Cutting Process?
Laser cutting is the latest machining process that uses a laser beam to cut through materials. It’s a kind of subtractive process where the material used is being constantly removed during the cutting process. The entire cutting process is digitally controlled by Computer Numerical Control or CNC and is ideal for drilling holes as small as 5 microns. The best thing about laser cutting is it doesn’t produce residual stress on the material, which allows for cutting even brittle and fragile materials. This article provides information on what is the laser cutting process.
Laser Cutting Methods
Laser cutting is performed through several methods including percussion drilling, single-shot drilling, helical drilling, and trepanning. Percussion and single-shot laser drilling methods are unique since they produce holes at a higher rate compared to the other two drilling methods. On the other hand, helical drilling and trepanning produce high-quality and more accurate holes in the material. Laser cutting offers many other advantages apart from the accuracy of the process. There are no tool wear issues to deal with since there are no cutting tools used as well as the non-contact nature of the method. The first laser cutting machine was introduced in 1965 and used to drill holes in diamond dies. In fact, laser cutting has since been used to cut high-strength alloys as well as metals like titanium for aerospace applications. Other applications of laser cutting include the cutting of gems, semiconductors, polymers, and metallic alloys.
What is Laser Cutting?
Laser is the short form for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Lasers are used to heat treat, join, inspect, and free-form manufacturing apart from the cutting process. In fact, the lasers used for cutting differ from other processes because it needs higher power densities with shorter interaction times. Lasers are usually produced from a high-intensity source of light inside a reflective laser cavity. The cavity contains a laser rod to generate the required radiation. The light source will stimulate the laser rod.
The laser rod is usually composed of atoms and lasing media that help absorb certain wavelengths of light from the light source. In fact, light is composed of bundles of energy known as photons. These photons will strike the atoms of the lasing media and energize them. When another photon strikes an energized atom, the atom will give off 2 more photons with the same direction and wavelength. These new photons will further stimulate energized atoms and produce more photons in the process. There are two parallel mirrors at both ends of the laser rod. The photons that move perpendicular to these mirrors will stay within the rod. One of these mirrors is partially transmissive to help the partial escape of light from the cavity. This escaped beam of light is the laser stream that is used to cut different materials.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
There are many advantages of laser cutting including:
- Accuracy and precision
- Non-contact technique
- High aspect ratio
- Ideal for difficult materials
- Minimal burrs produced
- No residual stress
- Fast drilling speeds