Following the trend of our latest articles regarding the factors that affect the laser cutting and engraving process, we reached our third and final installment of our informative guide.
These factors that play an important role in the laser cutting process, aren’t analysed just from a theoretical point of view. The proper adjustments and configurations of your laser machines as well as the work environment conditions are of tremendous importance to the machining process which will improve your end-result quality and the laser cutting speed, effectiveness and efficiency.
Material: The type and composition of the material is the most important factor that affects the laser cutting process. The way a metal is produced influences its characteristics. Aspects like absorption, tension, thermal conductivity and reflectance, all come into play when you want to cut or engrave a sheet of metal.
- Non-Ferrous Metals
- Aluminum: Aluminum suffers from a restricted ability to be cut because it’s highly reflective and its thermal conductivity is high. Furthermore, the laser cutting process depends heavily on the type of alloy we have at hand. The higher alloying content, the better and more efficient the cut.
- Copper and Brass: Like aluminum, copper and brass are both highly reflective and feature a high thermal conductivity rate. Due to the possible reflected radiation, the technician needs to be equipped with the appropriate protective gear
- Silver and Gold: Both of these metals are next to impossible to cut
- Iron & Steel: Steel’s ability to be cut effectively and efficiently depends greatly on its composition and contents in silicon, carbon and phosphorus. The lower the content of the aforementioned elements, the easier the cut. Additionally, steel and iron need to be produced in such a way that they don’t suffer from internal stresses. Should these two types of metals meet these requirements, they increase the effectiveness to be cut as well as the cutting speed. Lastly, you need to take into account the presence of carbon content. In case there is an increased percentage of carbon content present, hard grey-black oxides are formed on the surface of the metal which make the laser cutting process increasingly difficult.
- Non Metals: Each type of non-metal material should be taken into account separately.
- Acryl Glass, PVC & Polyurethane: All of these four materials feature good cut quality and high cutting speeds, but the laser technician should be equipped with the right gear to protect themselves from the possible fumes that are emitted during the laser cutting process
- Leather, wood, cardboard & paper: They are easily cut and engraved without any issues.
- Ceramics & Quartz: Both these materials can be cut with excellent results
- Glass: This material offers decent cut abilities but you need to pay attention to avoid the forming of cracks due to high thermal concentration and expansion
- Surfaces: Since laser cutting is an optical phenomenon, it is governed by the laws of optics during the whole laser cutting & engraving process. Furthermore, it is an aerodynamics process, which means that laser cutting is also affected by the surface characteristics of the materials to be cut. When a surface is highly reflective or deflective, then you shouldn’t expect an effective and efficient cut. Furthermore, dirty or processed surfaces may cause issues and reduce the quality and the speed of the cut. Lastsly, keep in mind that surfaces that are covered with polyethylene film, are easier to be cut.
- Shiny Surfaces: They cause issues due to the fact that they strongly reflect the laser beam. Their cut quality and thickness values are lower.
- Sprayed or Painted Surfaces: The differences between painted surfaces and unprocessed are negligible. You shouldn’t face any difficulties when you try to cut or engrave said surfaces
- Damaged Surfaces: They may cause problems because the laser beam and the gas flow can be warped, diffused and deflected unexpectedly
Detailed info on a wide range of materials and their suitablity for laser cutting and laser engraving can be found on the page possibilities.