Steel Cutting – Which laser is better ? Co2 or Fiber?
Co2 Laser vs Fiber Laser
The first Co2 lasers were used in metalworking already in the 1980s, however, over time engineers and scientists have made significant progress. Although the technology of fiber optic lasers had its origins in the 1970s, but the development of this field lasted more than two decades.
Initially, fiber lasers (fiber optic) had the power of several mW, which have make them not suitable for steel industry. DOnly in the year 2000 the first fiber laser with a power of 100W was created, and in the next decade the technology evaluated and the power of fiber optic (diode) lasers increased to 20kW.
A new era of lasers in the metal industry was born.
Fiber laser technology is considered breakthrough and “revolutionary”, because it has affected the entire metalworking and manufacturing sector. In just 5 years fiber lasers reached the cutting threshold of 4kW, which in the case of CO2 lasers lasted almost 4 times longer. After ten years, fiber lasers have reached a power range from 10kW to 12kW, where CO2 lasers have never reached that goal. In the following years fiber lasers reached a power exceeding 20 kW. They have been used in various industries for many years in applications other than sheet metal cutting.
The advantages of fiber laser technology
The basic advantages of cutting flat sheets using fiber laser technology result from the monolithic Fibre-to-Fiber semiconductor configuration, which requires no maintenance and provides lower operating costs than comparable CO2 lasers.
The properties of the laser beam also provide much faster cutting than in the case of CO2 lasers, as we will discuss below.
A concentrated beam, even a 2kW fiber laser, has a 5 times higher power density at the focal point than a 4kW CO2 laser. It also has 2.5 times higher absorption characteristics due to the shorter wavelength of the fiber laser. Higher wavelength absorption and higher power density created by the concentrated beam combine to achieve up to five times the increase in cutting speed in materials less than 6 mm thick.
The advantages of higher speeds are also achieved when nitrogen is used as an auxiliary gas, as the molten material is immediately removed from the gap created by the cutting process.
The higher the power density of the laser beam, the faster the material is melted, the faster the feed rate. Higher cutting speed of fiber optic lasers significantly reduces processing costs.Efficient use of the benefits of high power fiber lasers requires careful planning and management of all processes.Up to four times the bandwidth and lower cost of processing, which is more than half of what a CO2 laser can do, so financial gains can double.To sum up, unit costs of reconciliation elements will be lower, higher profit margins and shorter return on investment. Do not forget about the additional benefit of increased machine efficiency. You can process twice as much material at the same time providing the opportunity to take additional orders to further increase revenue from sales and thus the company’s profits.
Fiber laser can cut copper, brass and aluminum much better, faster and safer than CO2 because the beam is more easily absorbed and does not reflect light. The operating costs of a fiber optic laser are usually half of what a CO2 system can offer due to the lower power consumption and high electrical efficiency of fiber optic lasers.
There are many aspects that testify to the advantages of fiber optic laser:
- Fiber lasers do not need any warm-up time – usually about 10 minutes to start a high power CO2 laser.
- Fiber-optic laser does not require any beam maintenance, such as cleaning the mirror or lens and beam calibration. It can consume another 4 or 5 hours a week on a CO2 laser.
- Fiber lasers have a fully sealed fiber path both at the source and when transporting the laser beam to the cutting head.
- The beam path is not exposed to contamination as is the case with CO2 lasers.
- Transport of the beam from the generator to the cutting head maintains consistent laser light centering. Since the integrity of the fiber optic beam remains constant just like the cutting parameters require much less adjustment than a CO2 laser.
The purchase, operating and maintenance costs of fiber lasers are significantly lower than for Co2 lasers. In the same way, the efficiency of a fiber (diode) laser is more than twice as high. A simple balance between the two technologies speaks in simple terms. . . . the winner is the Fibre Optic Laser!