A laser cutter is an extremely helpful and versatile tool. Laser cutting is the method of using a strong and effective laser to either cut or engrave materials such as wood, plastic, metal and aluminium.
Laser cutters work by controlling an extremely high-powered laser beam that accurately cuts or engraves the material. The laser carefully burns or melts away the material and leaves a precise shape due to the thin beam that is produced
Although laser cutting has been accessible and usable for decades now, there still seems to be confusion about which type of laser cutting is sufficient for each application method. As one of the most powerful and accessible type of laser cutters, we will focus on CO2 lasers.
Do I need a laser cutter?
There are a few options to consider before deciding that you need to purchase your own laser cutter.
One of the leading options to consider to to gain access to a local, shared laser cutting machine. Many places including local universities, have access to shared laser cutters. These places provide the local community to laser cutters through a monthly subscription or hiring the machine by the hour. It is important to note however, that there are definite pro’s and con’s to this option.
One of the most sizable pros of a shared laser cutting machine is that you do not only again access to the machine and all relevant tools, but you can also get into contact with like minded people. This pro is priceless as you may be able to learn new and more efficient ways of cutting and even leans some tips along the way.
Another pro is that you do not have to save up and deliver an initial capital investment. Saving up the funds to purchase this machine can take a substantial amount of time.
A major pro is that you do not have to perform any maintenance on the machine.
Another pro to a using a shared laser cutting machine is that the machine may have more power and a range of capabilities that you may not have been able afford if you bought a machine on your own.
One of the con’s of sharing a laser cutting machine is that you are limited to the time that you have with the machine. Sharing a laser cutter may require you to book time in advance.
Another is that you have to cut a session short due to your reservation time expiring.
What to consider:
Before you determine the factors of what type of laser cutter you need, there are some assessments that you need to make on what your needs are.
The first is to assess what type of material you are going to be cutting as this will directly affect your choice of laser cutter. Laser cutters can be used for a wide range of materials such as wood, metal, plastic, acrylic and aluminium. You will need a much stronger and powerful machine if your wish to cut cardboard over wood and metals.
The next need that you need to consider is the size of the raw and untouched material that you will be cutting. This is important as varying lasers have different sizes beds. For example, if you are going to be cutting bricks, you need to ensure that the bricks can fit under your laser so that it can cut accurately. As a general rule, your laser should have a bed that is larger than the size of the final product.
Although most laser cutting work is completed on a sheet of the material of your choice, there are some projects that involve tubular materials. If you want to work with materials and objects such as glasses and bottles, you will require a cutter that supports a rotary tool. This tool allows you to hold onto materials in a cylinder shape and rotates them accordingly so that the entire surface can either be cut or engraved.
Another need that you need to consider when trying to determine the type of laser cutter equipment that you should invest in is whether the type of work that you will be performing will be cutting, engraving, or both. The type of work that you will be performing will help you to conclude on the amount of power that you require.
If you have assessed your needs and have determined that you will purchase your own laser cutting machine, there are a few factors that you first need to consider on how to choose the right piece of equipment. It is important to note that unless you have unlimited funds, there are some compromises that you may need to make.
Price is one of the most paramount deciding factors on the type of laser cutting equipment you can select. Laser cutters can vary in price vastly; there are some laser cutters that are available for less than $1,000 but have extremely little capabilities, however, some laser cutters can reach prices of up to $10,000 and are made of the highest quality with all functionalities included.
The next factor that you need to consider the the power output of the laser. Ordinarily, the greater the power of the laser cutter, the more dense the material that the machine is able to cut, and the more quickly it can complete this task. The capabilities of the machine are different for each power level.
Under 40 watts
If the watt of the laser cutter is under 40, the type of laser is mainly used for its engraving capabilities.
When the wattage of the laser cutter is between 40 and 60 watts, the machine can produce a deeper level of engraving and can also cut thin pieces of materials.
For a laser cutter that has a power output of 60-100 watts, it allows for you to produce a deeper level of engraving and can also cut common materials of average depth.
100 or more watts
As the highest power output level, you are able to cut thicker materials and the speed of completion is improved.
Another factor that you must consider is the quality of the machine, as this can differ greatly amongst the various laser cutter manufacturers. It is important to note that a machine of lesser quality will certainly require more maintenance and repairs. All laser cutters do require regular maintenance however, so before you purchase your next .laser cutter, ensure that you have the right capabilities to perform these routine maintenance checks.
If you are looking at your next laser cutter and require the machine to complete projects quickly, the speed of the laser cutter should be considered: the faster the speed of the laser cutting machine, the quicker it can complete full projects.
All laser cutting machines require software, however the requirements of the machine can vary. Some software programs can’t work on Apple computers and some only carry out measurements in metric units. If you are unsure of the software requirements of the laser cutter that you have your eye on, the manufacture of the machine can provide you with all of this information.
Lastly, it is important to take into consideration that laser cutters can take up a lot of floor space. You do not only need to make room for the machine itself, but most machines need cooling and ventilation equipment as well as a dedicated computer on which the software can run.
Contact your local Laser Cutting Company at Lightning Laser Cutting.
Lighting Laser Cutting can provide you with the most perfect cut everytime, no matter the type of material.