What Are Handheld Laser Cutters?

handheld laser cutter in actionMany of us use the word “laser”, without realizing that it is actually an acronym that means: Light Amplification by Stimulated.

?Emission of Radiation

Lasering is used in numerous ways, and among them are a stand-alone and a handheld laser cutter.

Basically, the energy produced by a laser beam causes a small area to be melted, evaporated or burned away. A laser beam is easily controlled by lenses and/or mirrors, travels in at straight line and travels at lightning speed. A cut is generated when the object or the laser beam is moved across the surface of the material of choice.

CO2 laser cutters are one option where material is cut by using a very focused and high energized beam of light that is created by carbon dioxide. This is used for tiny areas that are required to be cut exactly. It is also powerful enough to penetrate the thickness of a variety of materials.

How does a co2 laser cutter work?

how a co2 laser worksThe process of cutting with a co2 laser is achieved, by moving the material/workpiece under the laser/cutting head, or moving the mounted laser/cutting head across the material/workpiece.

CO2 laser cutting is ideal to use on plastic, wood, fabric, and acrylic material.

Once the co2 laser cutter is attached to a computer, the system cuts/engraves the designs in the material that you created on the software program.

A gas system is usually used to assist in the process, when a co2 laser cutter is in motion, as this ensures that cuts are continuous with no feathering and minimal cleanup is required. While the cut is being performed, a high pressured jet of inert gas is pointed toward the melting point, during the cutting process. This not only clears away the melted material, but on certain materials, it also increases the thermal efficiency.

Some benefits of using a co2 laser cutter include, but not limited to:

  1. laser cut metalThe laser bean never comes in contact with the original piece being cut.
  2. The precision of the cut is unmatched.
  3. A variety of software can be used, including Adobe, AutoCAD and CorellDRAW.
  4. Produces clean, smooth finished edges.
  5. Cost effective.

 

Who is behind the amazing epilog laser cutter?

Since their inception in 1988, the Epilog Laser Cutter Company has dedicated time and energy into consistently creating and producing high-quality laser systems that they are proud of and the public has relied on. The company, based in Golden, CO (USA), has been delivering the most up-to-date laser cutting technology to small and large businesses, as well as to the craftsman, who operates out of their garage.

The epilog laser cutter provides the highest quality at top speeds, and allows intricate designs to be transferred from the software program to many non-metal types of materials. For extremely thin material, the system includes a special IVT (integrated vacuum table) that will keep paper, fabric and thin plastic material securely in place.

Today, the epilog laser cutter system is used around the world for many different types of applications.

Laser Cutters and the Hobbyist

Laser CuttingFor many home hobbyists a home laser cutter or laser cutting system makes easy work of cutting precise patterns and etching into plastics, wood, rubber and other soft materials.

The laser cutting process produces extremely accurate clean, accurate cuts and is especially suitable for high-precision applications although more and more hobbyists are purchasing home laser cutting systems.

How Laser Cutting Works

A laser cutter works by the process of exciting a gaseous medium, most commonly, carbon dioxide to amplify light that gets reflected back and forth many times within the chamber of the laser. The light comes out of an aperture and is then focused by a lens onto a specific point.

A typical laser uses a beam 1/5 of a millimeter in width generating between 1000 to 2000 watts of energy that the laser focuses on a point to melt materials.? Lasers lose focus and energy as they penetrate material so cuts are generally limited to a depth of 20 millimeters.

Laser cutting machines are integrated into larger CAD/CAM systems that takes a design file and implements the exact measurements, curves, lines and angles onto the workpiece eliminating the need for hands-on manufacturing.

Most laser cutters allow feautres as small as 1 millimeter in size and specialized laser cutters can achieve even smaller features that allow for the fabrication of micromachinery.? Cutting lasers are classified as “class 4” lasers which means that the laser cutting machines are designed to ensure that all cutting occurs within the machine and human operators are never exposed to the laser beam directly.

What Materials Can Be laser Cut?

Laser Cut ComponentsWith many technological advances being made in the high power laser industry there has been a big increase in the types and numbers of materials suitable for laser cutting.? Laser cutting can be used on materials with a variety of thicknesses.

Although laser cutting is more typically used on flat sheets, laser cutters can also cut cylindrical and other geometric shapes. Materials suitable for laser cutting include several types of plastics including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylics and high density polyethylene.

Laser cutters are used on mylar, nylon and polypropylene although these materials are more unpredictable in how they melt during the cutting process. Ceramics, certain grades of foam such as depron, gatorfoam and expanded polystyrene, ?paper, leather, rubber, magnetic strip, balsa and medium density fiberboard among other woods are also suitable for laser cutting. Finally several metals can also be cut using lasers and these metals include mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum.

Types of Lasers

There are basically three types of lasers used for cutting. The CO2, ?the neodymium Nd, and neodymium yttrium-aluminum-garnet or Nd YAG lasers. These lasers do not work equally well on all materials so it is important to know what material or materials will be cut and whether or not the laser under consideration is suitable for the material.

It is always wise to consult with a laser- cutting engineer or manufacturer to understand what models are best suited to the cutting application in question.

Three Dimensional Laser Cutting

Three Dimensional Laser CutterA three-dimensional laser cut is similar to a regular laser cut. The major difference is that the laser, in conjunction with a computer driven program can recognize all sides of a substrate material and not just the face of the material. 3D laser cutters are able to work on cubed materials or other large substrate shapes and not just flat materials.

The substrate material can include glass, crystal, metals and woods. In 3D laser cutting the laser can be programmed to cut the inside of the material as well as the surface. This is a common process in the cutting of crystal.

Hobbies Appropriate for Laser Cutting

Laser-cut art hobby products can be made in a variety of materials including wood, metal and paper. Types of art you can create include earrings, wall screens, wood furniture, cards, puzzles, toys, sculptures and more.

With advanced computer programs laser cutters can be used to create 3D models and artwork. Engraving is one of the most common uses for a home laser cutting system.

Hobby Laser Pricing

Home hobby Laser cutters can be bought for as little as $1,500 if you chose a cheap imported model but many of these cheap laser cutters lack features and do not come with clear, easily understood directions. They also tend to require new gas tubes more often than slightly more expensive professional grade laser cutting machines you can purchase for around $3,000-$5,000.

Safety should be a concern so it is always better to buy a professional standard machine. Imported machines may not conform to industry safety standards.

Cheaper models may work okay for two-dimensional laser cutting but if the machine will be used for sculpting or etching one should consider a professional laser cutting system with advanced features and computer numerical control (CNC) that easily handles complicated shapes and 3D Cutting.

CNC controls also which eliminates the need for manual operation and increases accuracy. CNC lasers are considerably more expensive but can be a worthwhile investment for a small home business.

Conclusion

Although it is easy to find home laser cutter systems for sale online ?or second hand at cheap prices it is important to carefully consider how the home laser cutting system will be used, safety concerns, and cutting materials. The hobby laser cutter must be appropriate for the materials it will cut and thought must be given to the degree of complexity and accuracy required for the production of the products.

The best advice is to seek the assistance of a qualified laser-cutting manufacturer to help identify the best laser cutting system for the type of cutting required as well as the materials that the laser will cut. Good research and information will save a lot of hassle, wasted money and frustration.

Check out our laser cutters for sale here

Benefits of 5 Axis and Precision & Laser Machining

laser machiningBefore laser machining, traditional machining tools included mills, planers and lathes.? Although quality results have been achieved with traditional methods, LBM (laser beam machining) creates greater accuracy in less time.

Laser cutting technology uses a laser beam to cut very precise patterns into all sorts of material (including paper, wood, metal and plastic), leaving you with a high quality finished product with refined edges.

A computer directs the high-powered laser beam, and the material is vaporized, burnt or melted.

Laser machining is commonly found in large industrial plants, but current times are finding this type of technology in schools, small businesses and the home of an enthusiastic hobbyist.

Some advantages of laser cutting:

  1. Precision machining when thin aluminum and steel is being cut.
  2. Energy efficient.
  3. A laser beam will not wear down during the process.
  4. Cutting is faster than traditional methods.
  5. Contamination of a workpiece is reduced.
  6. Complex shapes and intricate details can be created with lasers.

Before laser machining, the machine and the work-piece needed to be measured (and calibrated) at least twice. Now, precision machining is possible thanks to this new technology, because the machine is set once with the specifics, and the cutting process is done automatically.

Other Benefits of Multi-Axis Machining Include:

  1. 5 axis machiningLaser control with 5-axis machining and 6-axis machining.
  2. Minimal (if any) distortion to the workpiece.
  3. No lubricant is needed during the cutting process.
  4. No manual force applied to workpiece is necessary.
  5. Ability to cut complex shapes.
  6. Easier and quicker than traditional cutting methods.
  7. Contamination to the work-piece is minimal, if at all.

Damaging material is minimal, because laser machining is a much gentler process than the machines used in the past. The versatility is incomparable to traditional cutting, as laser machining can drill, mark and scribe into ceramics and thin metals, as well as process plastic, silicon, diamond and graphite, within one micron.

Negative Aspects of Laser Machining

The negative side of laser machining is minimal, but it is information that needs to be shared.

A laser cutting machine needs to be placed in a well-ventilated area, as some plastics (when melted) may produce toxic fumes.

A few types of material cannot be cut via a laser machine. Copper is usually too thick to be cut with a laser, and more importantly this material reflects too much light. Crystal, glass and other brittle material cannot be properly cut with this type of technology.

Laser beam machining, as stated above, is a quicker process when compared to traditional methods, but consistency may vary, due to the thickness and type of material being cut.

Types of laser machining processes available

precision machined partCutting: a laser beam passes over a specific type of material and vaporizes away material, to create a certain type of cut or complex shape.

Drilling: The advantage is that laser drilling allows you to drill into hard to reach places.

Heat Treat: This heat/cold controlled process is useful in industries that need to change the microstructure of metal material.

Scoring: is the process that designs a crease in the material, to allow bending or separating of material to be easier.

Scribing: is when specific types of characters or symbols need to be carved into the material. Laser machining allows this process to be effective and simple.