Laser Cutting

Large Format Laser Cutting

Fiber Versus CO2 Laser Cutting

As a Distributor of CO2 laser cutting machines with output power from 2.2 to 6 kW and true fiber laser machines ranging from 2 to 4 kW, the question often asked about the benefits of each type of machine and which is better for specific applications. As there is often some confusion in the marketplace, Integrated Technology Inc outlines below the pros and cons of the two technologies.

FIBER LASERS

CO2 LASERS

Opened Type Fiber Laser Welding Machine

Fiber Lasers

Briefly, fiber laser light is created by banks of diodes. The light is channeled and amplified through fiber optic cable similar to that used for data transfer. The amplified light, on exiting the fiber cable, is collimated or straightened and then focused by a lens onto the material to be cut. Creation of the light is 200% more efficient than via a traditional CO2 laser, and delivery is far simpler, with no expensive optical mirrors. The focusing lens, unlike on a conventional CO2 laser machine, is sealed in the cutting head and thus not a consumable item. If one examines the price-to-performance ratio of the different models, the main cutting speed benefit of the higher-power 4 kW laser is in mid-range materials from 6 to 8 mm thick. There are also small benefits in thickness capacity when cutting non-ferrous materials, typically an increase of one gauge of material. This helps only customers who cut a lot of material in the 6 to 8 mm range or who wish to cover all eventualities, as it is their only laser cutting machine.

The benefits of fiber lasers:

  1. No moving parts or mirrors in the light-generating source, unlike a conventional CO2 resonator or disk laser. This has a distinct advantage in terms of reducing maintenance requirements and operating costs.
  2. Much higher electrical efficiency, resulting in considerably lower running costs. A 3 kW fiber machine uses one third of the power of a 4 kW CO2 machine of average across-the-board performance.
  3. Higher speeds when cutting thin material. Compared with the same 4 kW CO2 machine, the fiber laser is three times quicker in a straight line cutting of 1 mm mild, galvanized, or stainless steel and twice as fast when cutting 2 mm.
  4. An ability to cut reflective materials without fear of back reflections damaging the machine. This allows copper, brass, and aluminium to be cut without problems.

CO2 Laser Engraving and Cutting Machine

CO2 Lasers

The disadvantages of fiber compared with CO2 mainly relate to the cutting speed when processing thicker materials, typically above 5 mm, where the CO2 machine is faster in a straight line and also has much faster piercing times at the start of the cut. There is also the advantage of a smoother surface finish with the CO2 machine when cutting thicker materials.

The benefits of CO2 lasers:

  1. Over 70% of fiber laser customers are subcontractors, the remainder being original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This is surprising, as one would expect OEMs to be more confident about deciding to purchase a fiber laser machine, where the advantages and disadvantages vary greatly, depending on the products to be cut. Subcontractors can never be sure what the next job will be and what material thicknesses will need to be processed, so theoretically the versatility of a CO2 machine would be more attractive.
  2. Of the subcontractors, only 31% had a single laser profiler after purchasing the fiber machine, whereas 69% were multiple laser users and could decide which machine to put work onto, CO2 or fiber.
  3. The main reason for purchasing a fiber machine was the speed of cutting thin (1 to 2 mm and up to 3 mm) materials.
  4. An important secondary reason was the lower running cost and the lower power consumption using fiber technology, which was particularly important in companies at the top end of the electrical supply limit in their workshops.

Your Laser Service Experts

Whether you want a Laser system or want to use our laser services we would be happy to schedule an appointment to show you our machines and how they work. We even have a complete mobile laser trailer and can come to your facility to demonstrate our laser machines. Contact us today!