Fiber vs. CO2 Laser Cutting Machines

Time to Read: 5 m 48s

Over the last 40 years, laser technologies have improved steadily throughout nearly all industrial sectors. The development of fiber and CO2 laser cutting machines has steadily improved productivity in various aspects of industrial manufacturing. Whether a project requires thinner sheet metal or thicker metal cuts, fiber, and CO2 laser cutting machines provide the power and tolerance to produce a clean and accurate cut.

What is Industrial Laser Cutting?

Industrial laser cutting machines were initially developed in the early 1960s with the introduction of CO2 laser technologies. The laser cutting machine’s intricate design allows it to use a thin and focused laser beam to melt, burn, or vaporize materials for projects and components requiring precision cuts. Industrial laser cutting machines are ideal for wood, glass, paper, metal, plastic, and rocks. Laser cutting machines provide additional value since special tools are unnecessary to create intricate designs.

What is a Fiber Laser Cutter?

Fiber laser cutting machines utilize active optical fibers to create a laser beam and a transport fiber to transmit the cutting force to the machine’s head. The fiber laser’s ultra-hot light beam is engineered to cut through various metal thicknesses, delivering a precision cut that meets a range of tolerances. In totality, fiber laser cutting machines enhance strength and efficiency for various industrial, infrastructure, and manufacturing applications.

How do Fiber Laser Cutters Work?

Industrial fiber laser cutting machines utilize a solid-state laser to melt and pierce metals, achieving a precise and efficient cut. A laser diode emits light, which is sent to the fiber optic cable to be amplified. When this powerful laser hits the material surface, the high-intensity light is absorbed and converted into heat, which melts the surface.
When first making contact with a material, fiber laser cutters deliver an intense blast of heat to pierce the metal. The high-powered pulse beam works simultaneously with high-speed airflow using assist gas to clear away debris, leaving a clear pathway for the fiber optic laser to cut the metal.

What are the Advantages of Fiber Laser Cutters?

State-of-the-art fiber laser cutting machines provide the following benefits:
  • Precise
  • Repeatable
  • Fast
  • Non-contact
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Minimal heat distortion
  • Minimal case hardening

What Materials & Applications are Associated with Fiber Laser Cutters?

A fiber laser cutting machine is extremely useful in cutting sheet metal, including carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, aluminum, and titanium. Fiber lasers also excel in cutting reflective materials, which is difficult for CO2 laser cutting machines. Typical industrial uses include automotive, appliance manufacturing, décor, metal art, and kitchenware.

What is a CO2 Laser Cutter?

A CO2 laser cutting machine uses carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and helium to produce an electrically driven laser beam that can penetrate and cut various materials. CO2 laser cutter machines are primarily used for precision, mass production, and personalization applications.

How do CO2 Laser Cutters Work?

Industrial CO2 laser cutting machines operate via light induction through a gas-filled tube with mirrors at both ends. The mirrors guide then guide the laser beam into the material being cut. Since one of the mirrors is entirely reflective and the other lets a portion of the light pass through, the mirrors reflect most of the light traveling through the tube and cause the light waves to build in intensity.

What are the Advantages of CO2 Laser Cutters?

CO2 laser cutters offer significant benefits over standard cutting methods; these include:
  • Improved cut-edge quality on thicker surfaces
  • Ideal for fine features, acute angles & 2D cutting
  • Dependable results

What are the Disadvantages of CO2 Laser Cutters?

One of the main deterrents to providing CO2 laser work is the initial investment, which can run anywhere from $500,000 to upwards of a million dollars. CO2 laser cutters also require a lot of power to operate and often require regular maintenance. Additional disadvantages associated with Co2 laser cutters include:
  • Potentially harmful gases and fumes
  • High energy consumption
  • Increased upfront costs
  • Incomplete cuts due to oxygen or nitrogen machine gas error
  • Requires regular maintenance

What Materials & Applications are Associated with CO2 Laser Cutters?

CO2 laser cutting machines can incorporate a range of materials, including metal, wood, plastics, rubber, acrylics, and more. Relevant applications include cutting, welding, hardening, tempering, and coating.

What are the Differences Between Fiber and CO2 Laser Cutting Machines?

The major differences between fiber laser cutters and CO2 laser cutting machines are the mechanisms they operate and the laser wavelengths they produce. As previously stated, CO2 lasers use gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen and helium, and sometimes xenon or hydrogen. The machine mixes and excites these gases to produce a laser. Fiber laser cutters use elements such as erbium, ytterbium, neodymium or dysprosium. Combining these elements results in a crystalline solid as a fiber, guided into the machine’s cutting head through a transport fiber.
Additionally, fiber laser cutters produce beams with shorter wavelengths than CO2 laser cutting machines; this allows the fiber cutting machine to provide greater absorption power, which increases overall cutting speed and cutting quality.

Fiber laser Cutting or CO2 Laser Cutting – Which is Better?

As with beauty, the answer to this question lies within the eye of the beholder. Depending on the application, both processes are incredibly dependable and produce proven results. Generally, fiber laser cutters are ideal for cutting sheet metal when the material is thinner and the tolerances are higher, while CO2 is more effective for thicker materials. As fiber lasers continue to grow in available size this will change, fiber lasers are now being used to cut materials as thick as 2 ¼” on larger machines. Our experienced estimators will help you make the determination based on material grades and features required.

The IMS Difference

What separates IMS from other steel suppliers? With an abundance of metal options and customer service that is second to none, IMS has you covered with the following metal stock advantages:
  • Material under the same roof as cutting equipment
  • Next-day delivery of processed material via our trucks
  • Same-day pick-up in Will-Call
  • No minimum purchase
  • Unprecedented customer service
  • Support of Just-in-Time manufacturing processes
  • Salespeople that act as an extension of your purchasing department (we will get any metal products you need)
  • Material management (stocking and delivery on a scheduled basis)
  • Credit lines with good terms
  • Seven stores are open six days a week (check each location for specific times)
  • Shop by metal alloy

IMS – Your Preferred Destination for Fiber & CO2 Laser Metal Cutting Services

Looking for a world-class metal supply and distribution company that also provides in-house Tube Laser and Flatbed Laser, Plasma, and Waterjet Cutting services? IMS is your trusted metal supplier with decades of expertise. We stock products in the sizes and styles you need. Stop by one of our California or Arizona locations or request a quote today.
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