Fiber or CO2 lasers- how to decide which is the right technology for your shop | What's New

Fiber or CO2 lasers- how to decide which is the right technology for your shop

November 17, 2014 10:40:04 AM

When deciding whether fiber or CO2 is the right technology for your shop, it’s important to consult the expert. Jeff Hahn, Laser Product Manager, reviews the advantages—and disadvantages—of each technology for a variety of applications

When comparing fiber and CO2 lasers, the easiest topic to discuss is power consumption. The fiber consumes much less electricity. The savings not only comes from the resonator but also the chiller unit. The 4kW fiber and chiller, when on at maximum power, will consume approximately 18 kW. The equal-powered CO2 laser and chiller will consume approximately 70 kW.

The CO2 laser is a Class IV system. This means the operator is protected from direct beam contact, but the system is not fully enclosed. Normal plastic enclosures and safety glasses can be used for eye protection. Often, access to the workpiece is quick and easy. The fiber laser has a wavelength that is much more dangerous and special precautions must be exercised. This is why fiber laser systems are fully enclosed and are a Class I. The plastic for viewing the processing area must be of the optical density that will not allow transmission of the fiber wavelength, causing a higher expense. Manufactures generally limit the number of windows the machine has, making it harder to see what is happening while cutting.

When choosing a technology, the deciding factor is application. Each machine has strong points. The 1.07 μm wavelength of the fiber is better suited for cutting the reflective materials. Copper can be processed up to .25 inch thick with oxygen. Brass can be processed up to .312 inch thick with nitrogen. If you are cutting either of these materials, fiber is the choice. Aluminum cutting is faster on the fiber. Cutting .125 inch and thinner, using oxygen as an assist gas can produce speeds 50 percent higher than CO2. The fiber also enables marking on the aluminum. For mild steel cutting with oxygen, the speeds are similar from .125 inch and thinner. For .187 inch and thicker, the CO2 is faster and can cut thicker. The edge quality has similar roughness until .375-inch thickness. Above .375 inch, the CO2 has finer edge quality. For stainless steel cutting with nitrogen, the speeds of the fiber are faster in .25 inch and thinner.

A major difference is the edge quality. In all thicknesses, the CO2 cuts with finer edge quality. As the thickness increases, so does the difference. One factor of the rougher edge on the fiber is the higher assist gas consumption. The fiber will consume up to 30 percent more assist gas. The
primary reason for this is the smaller spot size.

To speak with someone about which laser technology is best for you, contact MC Machinery at (630) 616-5920.


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