Manufacturers have been making the switch to laser cutting and engraving in droves in recent years. This change in attitude toward laser technology has been driving an interesting debate: are CO2 lasers or fiber lasers better for manufacturing? Many industry experts have strong opinions on the subject, but the reality is that it’s far more nuanced than most newcomers to the debate would think. Read on to find out about the differences between these two essential technologies to get caught up.
What Are CO2 Lasers?
CO2 lasers feature resonators purged with CO2 gas under high velocity to split light ions into particles through a process known as excitement. The process causes the light particles to collide, creating further splits. Once enough of the particles are excited, the light is reflected and refocused down into a laser beam capable of cutting many materials precisely and accurately.
What Are Fiber Lasers?
Fiber lasers utilize a fiber optic delivery method to bring intensely amplified light to a laser cutter’s cutting head. This delivery process is much simpler than the process used to create CO2 laser beams. The fiber receives light from the resonator and delivers it to a cutting head, where the laser is emitted from the end of a fiber optic cable and refocused through focal lenses into a precise dot. The machine then uses cutting gases like O2 and NO2 to vaporize materials around the laser beam, blowing away the spent materials as dust.
Advantages of CO2 Lasers
CO2 lasers are very flexible across a range of applications. They can cut most metals, organic materials, and man-made materials. CO2 lasers have also been around for longer than fiber lasers, so at this point, they provide remarkably predictable results. This type of laser cutter is also better at cutting stainless steel and aluminium since it produces a better edge quality.
Disadvantages of CO2 Lasers
CO2 lasers have higher maintenance requirements and operating costs. Every component in the beam path delivery system must be kept clean and free of dust, which requires frequent, sometimes costly, maintenance. CO2 lasers also consume around 70% more energy than fiber lasers and have slower cutting speeds.
Advantages of Fiber Lasers
Fiber lasers don’t have a complex beam path delivery system, so they require less maintenance and use less electricity. Fiber lasers are also more precise, which means they generate less material waste. The long-term costs of operation are thus much lower than those associated with CO2 lasers. Coupled with the increased speed of fiber lasers over CO2 models, this helps to save companies money over time.
Disadvantages of Fiber Lasers
Fiber lasers tend to require a greater upfront investment than CO2 lasers, though their price range is coming down as the technology becomes more popularized. Fiber lasers are also less versatile than CO2 lasers, especially when it comes to non-metal applications.
Learn More Today
Still not sure what type of laser machine will be the best fit for a particular manufacturing application? The best bet is to contact a company like Boss Laser that offers a wide range of laser cutters and engravers. Describe the intended applications, then ask an expert for advice about what type of laser cutter will offer the best performance in the field.