How Do Laser Cutters Work?
Laser cutters/etchers have become a standard piece of equipment for many metal fabricators and workshops as they are very efficient machines - capable of performing complex cutting tasks in a variety of materials which would be impossible, or very time consuming, to achieve by hand.
Did you know that the word "LASER" is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation? Not many people know that!
The laser is a beam of very high intensity light of a single colour (or wavelength). In the case of a typical CO2 laser the light used is in the infra-red part of the light spectrum which means it is invisible to the human eye. It is the same type of light as that emitted from a TV remote control.
A laser resonator creates the beam of light, which is passed through the machine by reflection from various mirrors or 'beam benders'. As it leaves the machine it is focussed using a special lens. This increases the intensity of light to a point at which it is powerful enough to cut the material it is passing over.
The laser beam is precisely focussed causing extreme heat where it hits the material - in the same way that focussing the sun's rays through a magnifying class can be used to start a fire.
When cutting wood, card or paper the beam simply burns away the material it comes into contact with.
The cutting path is defined by the computer programme used to create the design. Designs can include paths which are cut and others which are simply etched into the surface of the material - depending on the design of the finished item. Laser cutters can etch shapes too - moving repeatedly over the surface of a material to carefully remove a small layer of material.