National Laser Company
We hope this will ultimately help you secure a quality laser machine. We are updating this from user feedback and new finds deemed worthy to add to the list. Feel free to contribute. Bookmark this page for future reference as we we update monthly.
Laser cutter machines are used in many industries, like: – Plastic fabrication – Wood cutting – Printing – Metal cutting – Sign making Compared with other methods, laser cutting machines are very versatile. A laser has almost no limits on its cutting path. You can move a laser point in any direction during the process, which allows for cutting complex and intricate designs without long lead times or high tooling costs. A laser cutter machine can cut small diameter holes that would be impossible with other processes, and a laser can do it quickly and easily. The laser processes materials without force and without contact. This means even very fragile parts can be cut with minimal support to and no deformation of the part. It’s possible to cut at very high speeds and do so without changing or sharpening tooling. These machines have really offered a lot of versatility for hobbyists and small businesses. As of the last 5 years laser machine prices have dropped significantly as many retailers have entered the market.
“The hobby laser cutter has really been making some impressive creations in garages across the USA.”
With a laser cutting machine you can process a wide variety of materials to a high standard in a single pass, often with no finishing necessary. Laser cutting is extremely cost effective thanks to its low maintenance and operating costs as well as high flexibility. How do CO2 and YAG lasers compare? Different materials react very differently to CO2 and Nd:YAG laser beams thanks to the difference in their wavelength. An Nd:YAG laser has one tenth the wavelength of a CO2 laser; 1064 nanometers to the 10,640 nanometer wavelength of a CO2 unit. An Nd:YAG beam is generally pulsed, and capable of extremely high power pulses up to 150,000W peak power or more.
A CO2 is generally switched continuous with 50-10,000W average power in most applications — though they can be run continuously, most laser cutters run them in “pulsed” mode to extract more peak power. The Nd:YAG laser beam is well absorbed by almost all metals. It will easily heat and either melt or vaporize whatever metal you put in front of it. A CO2 laser, on the other hand, is not well absorbed by many metals but it is extremely well absorbed by organic materials. It may take 40% more power to process bare aluminum with a CO2 laser than it would to do the job with an Nd:YAG. The better absorption by organic materials via. the CO2 wavelength means cutting or etching plastics and wood takes much less power than it would with a YAG. Also, the single mode operation of a CO2 laser tube makes that much more efficient overall. The CO2 laser produces a small spot that can be focused to an incredibly small point, whereas the Nd:YAG is a so-called multi mode laser that produces a shotgun-like pattern.
Since cutting and marking organic materials is much more common, you tend to find Nd:YAG lasers mostly in industrial applications. CO2 is generally preferred for retail and short run work, and the prices of CO2 lasers are lower as well. You can find home laser cutter machines with CO2 tubes, whereas the same is not true for Nd:YAG.
The tendency of organic materials and glass to absorb the CO2 wavelength makes CO2 lasers much safer to use, too. An Nd:YAG laser processing station must be absolutely light-tight, with very special viewing glasses: the Nd:YAG wavelength will be focused by the eye’s lens and can easily cause serious damage. The CO2 wavelength is blocked by simple glass and plastic windows, and if it strikes the eye is only capable of causing surface damage (which requires much higher incident power).
How does a laser perform compared with a router?
Routers are a low cost processing solution with a few notable capabilities. Using a router for face milling makes for a smooth and clean finish. Routers are also good at drilling, and they can cut thick plate as well as multiple layers of material held together. The disadvantage of a router is the physical force involved. You must hold down the material with a clamp, which can leave processing marks. The tooling in a router must be kept sharp, or variations in cut quality will happen as the blade dulls. The size of the router bit also limits the amount of complexity that can be created in the part, and tool changes will be necessary to go from cutting out large areas to creating fine detail. A laser, by comparison, suffers none of these problems. There is no physical force needed and a vacuum hold-down is sufficient. The laser is always sharp, and it can cut out large areas as easily as it creates a detailed filigree. Best of all, lasers are much quieter than routers.
How does a laser perform against steel rule dies?
The steel rule die has some of the cheapest tooling among die technologies. Die blades can be changed easily, and making a new die is fast — perhaps 3-5 days. A laser is still faster, as it can change the cutting path instantaneously. Dies are good when accuracy is not particularly important, as in cutting garments or boxes. They are not capable of very great accuracy or rendering fine details. The more complex the die, the more it costs and the longer it takes to make. The die must also be stored between jobs. If the design needs changing, a completely new die must be made. By comparison a laser has no limit on complexity, no additional costs of changing a design, and each new design is stored inside the computer instead of as a bulky physical object. A laser can even kiss-cut parts far more reliably than a die.
How does a laser perform compared with an abrasive water jet?
brasive water jets are excellent at cutting extremely hard materials, like: – Titanium – Marble – Granite – Concrete – Stone In these cases the cut edges are clean, with none of the problems (like hardening or reduced machinability and weldability) that other methods incur. There’s also minimal stress on the part and no need to design tooling. Compared with a laser, water jets are much less precise and require much more maintenance. The abrasives used in water jetting must be disposed of properly, while the water jet nozzle wears out and must be replaced frequently. The water jet is also not capable of cutting certain materials, or of keeping the materials dry during cutting — running a water jet is a messy, humid, and noisy business. The laser has none of these problems. There is no wear on parts, no mountains of abrasive that must be managed, and the laser operates dry.
How does a laser perform compared with electrical discharge machining (EDM) or wire EDM?
EDM is a high precision process for making very complex shapes or parts, often involving very thin walls, and doing so without distorting the metal. EDM is capable of machining even extremely hard metals precisely, as well as metals where adhesion to tooling would be a problem. EDM is an excellent choice as a replacement for grinding in the machining process, and it can eliminate secondary finishing operations as well. Because EDM can only machine conductive materials, it is generally only used for metals. If you are cutting extremely thick and hard metals, EDM may be suitable. Unfortunately, EDM is too slow for most production applications. A laser cutting machine is generally faster and more versatile. A laser is also not subject to the wire breakages that characterize EDM. How does a laser cutter perform against a knife cutter? Knife cutters are widely used to process two-dimensional materials like textiles, fabrics, corrugated materials, and paper. Depending on the tool head they can cut, kiss-cut, crease, route, mill, drill, and much more. These machines can also produce prototypes and samples quickly. Unfortunately, knife cutters have problems holding the material down. A good laser cutter uses a vacuum hold-down bed which provides all the hold down necessary. Whereas a knife cutter is limited to thin and non-sticky materials, a laser cutter can process even thick steel or adhesive backed plastics that would not be practical with a knife. A laser cutter will not wear or dull during machining.
Does a laser cutter burn the material being processed?
A laser cutting machine will actually vaporize the material when cutting, it doesn’t burn it per se. A cutting with a laser should process the material faster than traditional CNC machinery. Fast processing reduces local heat buildup with accompanying distortion. A high laser peak power means the material is vaporized faster and edges are higher quality, whereas a lower power laser is more likely to burn. When selecting a laser for cutting you should look at both peak and average power. Pulsed lasers turn on and off thousands of times per second. The peak pulse power is what does the cutting. High peak pulse power vaporizes the material more quickly and produces a cleaner cut. High average power is still useful. When cutting, the average power is what determines how many pulses per second the laser can produce. Therefore, higher average power means a shorter processing time.
How powerful a laser do I need for cutting?
The laser power has a major influence on the laser cutter machine price. If you’re looking for a laser paper cutter machine, you can go with a low power and cheap laser. For stronger and thicker materials, higher power is necessary. For thin, non-metallic materials like: – Paper – Acrylics – Mylar stencils – Polycarbonate …a 450W peak / 150W average power laser is capable of cutting up to 0.040″ thick stock at full speed. As things get thicker, speed goes down, or the laser power must go up. For thicker materials like plastics, wood, and some metals it’s better to look for a more substantial unit, with 1500W peak / 250-500W average.
When it comes to metal, it’s best to buy the most powerful laser allowed by the budget: 2500W peak / 150-1500W average is a good choice. For cutting brass or aluminum, a high average power (>500W) is necessary due to the material’s reflectivity and thermal conductivity. It’s possible to cut stainless steel under nitrogen gas for a particularly lean cut, in which case a similarly high power machine can be used. On the other hand, using oxygen assist it’s possible to cut thin stainless, cold rolled, spring, or tool steel with even a 150W laser. You can find value added laser cutters in the USA with great support at Boss Laser and
I’ve found them to offer an affordable machine. Here are prices of Epilog laser if you want to buy a Mercedez for top dollar: http://www.peppm.org/Products/epiloglaser/price.pdf
Regardless of the materials you want to process, a laser cutter machine is a capital investment, and saving a few dollars up front can result in significant costs later. Buying a laser cutter machine on eBay may be cheaper, but it comes with no support in the event of a problem. A low cost Chinese machine will not have the quality of a European or North American-built system. This is less important for hobbyists, but for professional use the accrued downtime costs of a cheap and unreliable laser can exceed the initial purchase cost. Resource Articles: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-a-Laser-Cutter
Article is right here.
The good thing about laser cutting lighter materials including paper. Its easy to design/create simple mock-ups, and cool packaging that are not long term. POP UP demo displays can be done without the use of expensive dies. Highly accurate cuts and intricate curves are a breeze with a laser machine. You can dial down or up the laser power to further for die or kiss cutting.
Check out the article here.