Laser metal cutting machines (metal cutters) rightfully occupy one of the leading places among innovative equipment used in various sectors of the national economy: metallurgy, mechanical engineering, furniture manufacturing, and others. This is because they can be used to obtain parts of the most complex configuration with a high degree of accuracy without the need for further processing along the contour. At the same time, taking into account the minimum cutting thickness and rational cutting of the sheet, it is possible to achieve waste-free production.
The advantages of this process can also include:
- high performance;
- availability of an automated control system;
- reducing the cost of production
Selection criteria for laser cutting machines
Many managers sooner or later think about providing their enterprises and companies with such high-tech aggregate mechanisms. After all, to have at least one laser machine for cutting metal in production is to abandon outdated and inefficient equipment and, with a minimum of energy consumption, provide the necessary volume of parts and blanks for the assembly site. But since there are several types of such equipment, and even at a high cost, the choice of a model for each specific case should be approached individually. Let’s try to figure out what to pay attention to when choosing a laser metal cutting machine for a particular production.
Features of the laser cutter
To begin with, we will understand the design of the laser machine and the features of its operation. Laser cutter, the same metal cutter, consists of the following components:
- an emitter that generates a narrowly directed pulse or stream of photons;
- gas transfer systems intended for cooling the radiator and blowing molten metal out of the working area;
- the drive used to move the emitter above the cutting surface;
- a coordinate table on which a sheet of metal or a work piece is placed;
- automated control system (ACS) or CNC.
Laser cutting technology consists in vaporizing or blowing out a thin layer of metal melted under the influence of powerful emitters (lasers) using a gas mixture flow. This method of processing guarantees a high quality cut of all types of sheet steels, as well as non-ferrous metals and alloys.
Types of lasers: comparison of gas and fiber lasers
We will determine the types of lasers since the principle of operation of laser installations is to focus the beam, which provides a high concentration of energy on the surface of the material. The diameter of this beam is only a few tens of millimeters, which ensures a small cutting thickness. The process of melting and changing the structure of the metal occurs when the beam power reaches certain values.
There are the following types of lasers:
- gas, in which the role of the active medium is played by a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and helium;
- fiber, using optical fibers as the active medium;
- solid-state, where crystals and special types of glass take the place of the active medium.
Let’s look at the main two that occupy the top lines in the list, and conduct a comparative analysis of them. At the same time, we pay attention to three important points that should be taken into account when choosing a laser machine:
The cutting efficiency of a material depends on the wavelength of the radiation. Thus, fiber lasers with short-wave radiation show high quality indicators in the case of cutting thin sheet metal with a thickness of up to 3 mm. Gas lasers, which have a longer radiation wave, show excellent results when cutting metal sheets of large thickness.
Fiber lasers have a higher installation cost compared to their gas counterparts.
The equipment equipped with fiber lasers is characterized by small dimensions and a long service life of 100 thousand hours, due to the quality of the fiber and the absence of overheating.
The spot emitted by the light beam of a fiber laser is small in size and has a good depth of field compared to a gas laser.
When processing metals with the help of fiber lasers, it is possible to obtain more accurate qualities
Working field: what to pay attention to
When choosing a laser cutting machine, it is also necessary to determine the size of the working field of the coordinate table. If you need to perform cutting of the material, you should choose a model with a large table. If you need to implement ideas related to decorative and applied art, you can buy a laser cutter for metal with smaller dimensions.
When buying laser cutting equipment, you should know the following: if the laser power can be increased, then the table can not be changed — it changes along with the machine.
Equipment used to control the laser cutter
To control the laser cutter for metal, as a rule, a computerized control system of the automated control system or CNC is used. With its help, the laser parameters are monitored and controlled, commands are transmitted to the control modules of the coordinate table and the gas movement and emission systems.
Recently, the metalworking industry offers together with laser equipment many types of metalworking units that allow the separation of even the hardest alloys in a matter of minutes and with minimal human involvement in the process.
A guillotine that cuts metal sheets into strips using special metal knives.
Plasma machines used for cutting conductive materials and working with the use of plasma torches.
Gas-oxygen units designed for cutting metal of large thickness by heating it to a temperature of 1000 degrees and supplying a thin jet of oxygen to pre-prepared areas.
Hydroabrasive equipment that provides cutting of metal up to 300 mm thick by exposing the cut to a jet of water mixed with an abrasive material at a pressure of 5 thousand atmospheres.