The CO2 laser source is similar to the engine in a car. You may have a great engine in your vehicle, but if the transmission is poor or the wheels fall off then you are not going to get very far down the road. This is much the same with laser processing systems. Great care must be taken not only in choosing the correct Synrad laser source, but also in delivering that laser beam to the target material in the most efficient manner possible for the application requirements. This paper will demonstrate how different beam delivery methods can lead to dramatic differences in cut quality and speed, despite using the same laser source.
In this white paper, we will look at two common methods of delivering the beam for cutting applications. A scan head with galvo-mirrors compared to a cut head with a gas jet manifold. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, which depends on the material type and thickness as well as the cut quality and velocity requirements for the particular application. While no solution is perfect, carefully balancing these process needs will lead to the best outcome for the application.
Cutting with a CO2 laser involves three very different material interactions. Each interaction depends on the type of material: vaporization, melt shearing, or chemical degradation. For plastics, like acrylic, that absorb the 10.6 µm CO2 wavelength very well, the cut process mainly consists of vaporization. The cut process is so efficient, therefore, there is little heat input to the surrounding material. For thin materials, this means no assist gas is needed to cool the surrounding material in order to maintain high quality cuts. However, when the plastic type does not absorb the CO2 beam as well, it results in greater heat input and the cut process is mainly melt shearing.
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