What are differences between CO2 and Fibre Laser Cutting?
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.
Pros of Fibre Lasers
- Fibre lasers convert energy into laser light at up to twice the efficiency of gas lasers and typically use half the power, resulting in a reduced environmental impact and lower running costs.
- Fibre lasers can cut a wide range of thicknesses of material, but cut thinner materials much more quickly than CO2.
- The integrity of a fibre laser remains consistent, providing a reliably high edge quality and low contamination of the final product.
Cons of Fibre Lasers
- Initial setup costs of a fibre laser cutting machine is much greater than that of a CO2 setup.
Pros of CO2 Lasers
- CO2 lasers will generally leave a smoother edge finish on thicker materials than a fibre laser, although as fibre laser technology improves, settings can be fine tuned to achieve better results in thicker materials, quickly eliminating this advantage over fibre laser technology.
- A CO2 laser is probably a better fit for you if you’re looking to engrave and cut non-metals such as acrylic, woods, card, leather and fabrics.
Cons of CO2 Lasers
- CO2 lasers require alignment which can be knocked out of place, whereas fibre lasers are much quicker to get up and running and require less frequent servicing.
- CO2 lasers typically require a 10 minute warm up time before operation, fibre lasers are ready to cut when you are.
- The optics in CO2 lasers can be damaged by reflective surfaces, this is not the case with fibre lasers, meaning that they can cut copper, brass and aluminium much better and more safely than CO2 because the beam is more readily absorbed and not reflected.
Lasered Components cuts high volumes of sheet metal, so the choice between CO2 and fibre laser cutting machines was straight forward. The speed and energy efficiency makes a big difference to our high-volume turnover.
To see how fibre laser cutting could benefit you, take a look at the range of materials we supply and cut.