Lasers have been around much longer than you might expect. Fibre lasers were invented in 1963 by Elias Snitzer, shortly followed by two other laser processes; the gas laser and the crystal laser. The gas laser was invented in 1964 by Kumar Patel and the crystal laser was also in invented in 1964, at the same company, Bell Labs, by J. E. Geusic.
Gas and crystal lasers were ready for practical applications much more quickly than fibre lasers, which required almost two decades of development before the first commercial devices appeared on the market in the late 80s.
Industrial laser cutting
In industrial laser cutting, there are two major technologies: fibre and CO2, both technologies work in a similar way, by concentrating light into a beam intense enough to cut various materials.
How does a CO2 laser work?
Electricity flows through a CO2 filled tube to create light. At one end of the tube is a fully reflective mirror, the other end holds a translucent mirror, these are set up to increase the intensity of light as it flows through the gas filled tube. From here it is guided by another series of mirrors and a focussing lens towards the material to be cut.
How does a fibre laser work?
In a fibre laser cutting machine, light is directed through a fibre-optic cable to intensify the beam before being aligned to the material being cut. The resulting solid state laser has far fewer components than a CO2 laser cutter.