Switching to fiber laser: what you need to know

Switching to Fiber Laser: What You Need to Know

April 9, 2018 3:25:07 PM

The rise in fiber-optic lasers has led to many issues with experienced operators overthinking cutting parameters and under-maintaining basic items such as optics and nozzles. The average operator, who has many years of experience with CO2 systems, may find the switch to fiber frustrating. This frustration does not come from increased difficulty, but increased simplicity.

With fiber lasers, the tweaking and adjustments we are used to basically go away altogether. This is due to the solid-state construction of the fiber oscillator and delivery system. These systems are not affected by temperature or thermal degradation, as is the case with CO2 systems.

In CO2 systems, temperature and optical life will, over time, reduce power and quality of cut. Operators adapt to this by changing feed-rate and focus settings. This is the biggest hurdle for an operator when moving to fiber, as their first instinct is to slow the speed down.

So, what should be done if you encounter cutting issues? It comes down to three simple checks:

  1. The Nozzle – Is the correct nozzle being used?

Make sure it is undamaged, centered and calibrated. The nozzle is a critical and central element in ensuring optimal cutting conditions.

  1. The Protective Window and/or Lens – Is there a spot on the window or lens?

This can be checked by running a mode burn program. If any spots are seen, the optics should be replaced.

  1. The Cutting Condition – Is the condition the correct one for the material being processed?

If you are cutting a material that does not match the database, for example a new grade of steel, always create a new condition. Never overwrite a factory setting if it can be avoided; that way, the next time you run that material, the setting will still be correct.

The biggest maintenance issue a new fiber operator will face is optical cleanliness. It is of utmost importance that the optical components are clean and dust free. Unlike a CO2 laser, the fiber laser has a very small beam size with a very high-power density. This means any contamination on the protective window or lens will create an instant loss of cut.

Following the proper cleaning procedure and preventing contamination should be the biggest priority for any operator. A CO2 lens is cleaned and reinstalled daily as normal maintenance; for fiber though, the window is only cleaned when it is new, and then just replaced if any cutting problems occur. The less the optics are removed from a fiber cutting head, the less chance for contamination.

All in all, the idea is to keep things simple and always check the basics first.

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