One of the most important laser technologies used in the laser processing industry is laser cutting. Laser cutting applications cover more than 70% of the laser processing industry. Its advanced equipment and processes have solved many problems in industrial manufacturing and are favored by industry users. Let’s learn more about the application of laser cutting in the processing of metal materials.
What does laser cutting work?
Laser cutting technology originated from a revolution in optical research and optical technology. The first laser cutting machines are mostly low and medium-power laser cutting machines, and then gradually developed into high-power lasers. The laser cutting process is an innovative cutting process compared to traditional processes such as controlled shearing, punching, flame cutting, and plasma cutting. Laser cutting technology uses a high-power laser beam to irradiate the surface of the material sheet, the laser beam can continuously change its focal length according to different materials to reach different depths and cut different layers of material. The irradiated material undergoes a series of physical and chemical processes, and the material is constantly removed, resulting in the accurate cutting of complex-shaped workpieces.
What are the common metal materials for laser cutting?
Laser cutting is not limited to plastic parts but also can cut metal, wood, rubber, glass and other materials.
Metal materials are widely used. It is well known that metal materials have certain hardness and tensile resistance. Laser cutting can not only obtain a better edge finish but also retain the shape characteristics of the circle.
The following metal materials are common laser cutting materials.
Titanium and titanium alloy
Titanium is an important metal structure. Titanium alloy has properties such as high strength, high heat resistance, corrosion resistance and low thermal conductivity elasticity. It is one of the important materials for the aerospace industry, such as for structural parts of rocket casings, artificial earth satellites, missiles and high-speed aircraft. The quality of laser-cut titanium alloy is better. During the operation of the laser cutting machine, pure titanium couples the laser emitted by the laser well, which in turn is converted into thermal energy. It is worth noting that the cutting speed is very fast and a violent chemical reaction occurs during the cutting process, with the possibility of an oxide layer at the cut edge trip. Therefore, air is generally used as an auxiliary gas when machining titanium alloys, which makes it easier to control the cutting quality.
Nickel-based alloy is a comprehensive performance material that is resistant to high temperature and oxidation corrosion. It is often used in the marine field, such as desalination and mariculture; the environmental protection field, such as waste gas treatment; the energy field, such as sea tide power generation; and the petrochemical field. There are many varieties. There are also many varieties of nickel-based alloys, and most of them can be used in laser cutting process. It is worth noting that laser cutting of nickel alloys needs to be done under high oxygen pressure, and based on the different material alloy composition, the nickel in the molten state is highly viscous and will adhere to the cut gap.
Aluminum and aluminum alloy
Aluminum has the properties of low strength and good plasticity. Aluminum alloys are made by adding certain alloying elements to aluminum elements to form different varieties of aluminum alloys with differentiated properties. Cutting aluminum and aluminum alloys using a pulsed laser with high repetition peak value can obtain a better cutting edge finish. It is worth noting that for thick aluminum processing is difficult, the thermal conductivity of aluminum and aluminum alloys is large, and cracks need to be prevented from appearing on the surface of the cut.
Stainless steel has good corrosion resistance and heat resistance. Its use is common in the construction field, restaurant and kitchenware, chemical industry, etc. The hardness is higher than aluminum, and the manufacturing cost is also higher than aluminum alloy. The application of stainless steel laser cutting effectively reduces the manufacturing cost of companies. The speed of laser cutting decreases as the thickness of the steel increases. Cutting speed, laser power and air pressure are the most important factors affecting the quality of stainless steel cutting. If these process parameters are not properly controlled, there is a risk of burrs on the cutting edge, yellowing of the cutting edge and other abnormalities. Compared with carbon steel, stainless steel cutting requires higher oxygen pressure and laser power.
Copper has good ductility, good thermal and electrical conductivity. It is commonly used in electrical and electronic markets, transportation equipment, industrial machinery and medical fields. Laser cutting copper is difficult compared to other materials, copper has two special properties, resistance to heat and resistance to light. Copper is resistant to heat and will react against the beam, making it difficult for the laser beam to penetrate the copper material. Therefore, when laser cut copper, the laser needs to be turned up accordingly in order to weaken the inherent resistance properties of copper. The application of laser-cut copper makes custom processing and mass production of copper more cost-effective.
Advantages of laser cutting
Laser cutting technology has more detailed advantages compared with other cutting processes, mainly the following three points.
- High precision: Laser cutting can achieve high precision, especially in controlling hole diameter tolerance, contour size tolerance and cut edge surface roughness. It can precisely cut micro-hole that cannot be processed by traditional process.
- High efficiency: The cutting speed is fast and can be cut in one time.
(3) Cost reduction: Most of the molten material will be blown away by the auxiliary gas during the cutting process, leaving very little slag or burr. But compared to the traditional process, this can effectively reduce the cost of secondary processing, especially the cost of manual work.
To sum up, laser cutting not only features good cutting quality, high speed, various cutting materials and high efficiency but also is a fascinating technology that has been widely utilized in the car body processing, aerospace industry. Besides, laser cutting machines are also used to process non-metals, which will increase the further use of this technology.