When we mention a laser cutter in the metal fabrication industry – the majority of people would automatically think of a CO2 laser. It’s the oldest form of laser cutting – dating back to 1964 – and is still widely used today. However, today we’re going to be talking about the fibre laser – which has been known to outshine the CO2 laser in a lot of ways.
What is a fibre laser?
With fibre lasers, the optical fibre (which is the active gain medium in this case) is doped with certain rare-earth elements such as thulium, erbium and neodymium. The optical signal is then amplified with light without the need to use traditional lasing methods. The biggest change here is the fact that silica glass fibre is being used as the laser machine’s core – hence the name – instead of several mirrors.
How does it operate?
Technically, it operates with the same core principles as a gas laser – but with a few unique features. The whole point of a laser is to amplify light. This is the still the aim of a fibre laser – except the silica glass fibre sits at the core of the machine. We mentioned doping earlier, and what that’s in reference too is the introduction and mixture of small amounts of an element into another. In this case, the most common rare-earth element that the fibre is doped with is erbium.
Erbium’s energy levels are very useful and efficient thanks to its atoms – meaning cheaper diode can be used to fuel the laser whilst still maintaining a high-quality beam. It also uses an optical fibre to ensure the laser is stable and can move with ease. This is opposed to gas lasers which use small, acutely aligned mirrors – which are delicate and fragile.
What are the benefits of a fibre laser?
Because the laser beam is generated within the fibre itself, there are no finely placed or minutely adjusted optics needed – making it a much more accessible, versatile and stable laser cutter. Another benefit of the fibre is that because it’s such a small core, the beam is highly concentrated – making it high quality as well as very straight and accurate. They can also be very powerful.
Fibre lasers are highly efficient due to the rare-earth elements that are doped with the fibre. As we mentioned earlier, this means that a cheap diode can be used to power the machine whilst still producing a powerful, high-quality beam. Another reason they’re so efficient is that they’re able to convert 70-80% of the power that’s put into them – whereas other lasers are only able to convert a small percentage. This means that less power is being inadvertently converted into heat – meaning the machine can cool down a lot quicker as well.
How do they compare to CO2 lasers?
At the end of the day, fibre lasers are more efficient machines in comparison to carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers. They’re cheaper to run and they require far less maintenance as there are no mirrors that need specific adjusting or correcting. This effectively saves time and money – which translates into a more productive schedule. Fibre lasers also have a very fine focal diameter – making them ideal for high-precision jobs.
Whilst fibre lasers are more effective and powerful – their fine beam means they’re not as suited for certain jobs such as cutting through thicker materials. This is where CO2 lasers are probably better-suited machines. It really depends on the type of work you’re predominantly doing – only you can know which laser cutter will suit your type of work.
Looking for a laser cutting machine?
Whether you’re looking for a brand new or second-hand machine – ACRA Machinery has all of your laser cutting needs handled. Our wide range of Durma laser cutters is sure to suit your needs. The high-end, efficient and durable build quality of Durma fibre lasers is unrivalled in the metal fabrication world and is guaranteed to deliver quality cuts.
ACRA also offer maintenance and repair services on machines – so if your laser cutter has run into some issues, our experienced and trained technicians can commence on-site repairs to get it up and running again.
If you’d like to get in touch with us to discuss our products or services, then please call 03 9794 6675. Alternatively, you can contact us via the enquiry form on our website.