The carbon dioxide laser was one of the earliest gas lasers to be developed (invented by Kumar Patel of Bell Labs in 1964), and is still one of the most useful. Carbon dioxide lasers are the highest-power continuous wave lasers that are currently available. They are also quite efficient; the ratio of output power to pump power can be as large as 20%. The CO2 laser produces a beam of infrared light with the principal wavelength bands centering on 9.4 and 10.6 micrometers.
The most basic form of a CO2 laser consists of a gas discharge (with a mix close to that specified above) with a total reflector at one end, and an output coupler (a partially reflecting mirror) at the output end.
The CO2 laser can be constructed to have continuous wave (CW) powers between milliwatts (mW) and hundreds of kilowatts (kW). It is also very easy to actively Q-switch a CO2 laser by means of a rotating mirror or an electro-optic switch, giving rise to Q-switched peak powers of up to gigawatts (GW).
Because of the high power levels available (combined with reasonable cost for the laser), CO2 lasers are frequently used in industrial applications for cutting and welding, while lower power level lasers are used for engraving.
Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The laser optics and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. A typical commercial laser for cutting materials would involve a motion control system to follow a CNC or G-code of the pattern to be cut onto the material. The focused laser beam is directed at the material, which then either melts, burns, vaporizes away, or is blown away by a jet of gas, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish.
Generation of the laser beam involves stimulating a lasing material by electrical discharges or lamps within a closed container. As the lasing material is stimulated, the beam is reflected internally by means of a partial mirror, until it achieves sufficient energy to escape as a stream of monochromatic coherent light. Mirrors or fiber optics are typically used to direct the coherent light to a lens, which focuses the light at the work zone.
The parallel rays of coherent light from the laser source often fall in the range between 1.5 – 2.0 mm in diameter. This beam is normally focused and intensified by a lens or a mirror to a very small spot. The narrowest part of the focused beam is generally less than 300 µm in diameter.
Advantages of laser cutting over mechanical cutting include easier workholding and reduced contamination of workpiece (since there is no cutting edge which can become contaminated by the material or contaminate the material). Precision may be better, since the laser beam does not wear during the process. There is also a reduced chance of warping the material that is being cut, as laser systems have a small heat-affected zone. Some materials are also very difficult or impossible to cut by more traditional means.
There are generally three different configurations of industrial laser cutting machines: moving material, hybrid, and flying optics systems. These refer to the way that the laser beam is moved over the material to be cut or processed. For all of these, the axes of motion are typically designated X and Y axes. If the cutting head may be controlled, it is designated as the Z-axis. The Lasersaur uses a flying optics configuration.
Flying optics lasers feature a stationary table and a cutting head (with laser beam) that moves over the workpiece in both of the horizontal dimensions. Flying optics cutters keep the workpiece stationary during processing and often do not require material clamping. The moving mass is constant, so dynamics are not affected by varying size of the workpiece. Flying optics machines are the fastest type, which is advantageous when cutting thinner workpieces. The maximum cutting rate is limited by a number of factors including laser power, material thickness and material properties.
Cutting Area: 610 mm x 1220 mm
Laser Source: Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Laser Class: Class 1
Emission Wavelength: 10.6 µm (infrared)
Maximum Laser Power: 80 Watts
Cut Speeds: 10 mm/min - 8000 mm/min
Laser Kerf: ~300 µm
Focal Length: 73.3 mm
Please carefully read all the instructions before attempting to operate the laser.
The laser cabinet has a magnetic safety interlock switch that deactivates the laser if the door is opened, and no special precautions are necessary to operate the high power laser safely.
NEVER attempt to operate the laser with the lid open or attempt to override lid interlock.
NEVER view directly into the beam of the Red Laser Diode Pointer.
ALWAYS use the provided safety glasses as a second layer of eye protection. If you supply your own safety glasses they must be rated at least OD7+ at 10.6 µm and/or DI LB3 from 9 to 11 µm.
AVOID looking directly at the cutting spot. Although the polycarbonate lid is opaque at the wavelength of the laser, secondary UV and IR radiation can pass through. Prolonged exposure to these wavelengths can damage your eyes.
Use of controls or adjustments or performance of procedures other than those specified herein may result in hazardous laser radiation exposure.
NEVER disassemble the machine or remove any of its protective covers. The power input to the laser tube is potentially lethal and is fully contained within the cabinet.
Laser cutting and engraving systems represent a significant fire hazard. Most engraving materials are inherently combustible. While, the objective of most cutting and engraving operations is to vaporize material without burning, it is easy to ignite a flame.
NEVER let the laser system operate unattended
ALWAYS keep the area around the machine clean and free of unnecessary clutter, combustible materials, explosives, or volatile solvents.
ALWAYS keep a properly maintained and inspected fire extinguisher within reach.
ALWAYS clean out any small pieces that have fallen through the grid using a HEPA filtered vacuum. Accumulated debris can catch fire when heated by the unfocused laser.
NEVER operate the machine without a properly operating vent to the outside.
NEVER engrave or cut any material emitting chlorine or hydrogen gas such as PVC or vinyl. Doing so will produce gasses that is corrosive to the machine and harmful to human health.
ALWAYS verify that your material is safe for laser cutting.
AVOID bumping or moving the mirror holders (shown below) when inserting and removing material from the laser cabinet. Re-aligning the mirrors takes considerable time and effort and you will be assessed a $25 fee. If a mirror or lens is damaged during operation you will be responsible for replacement costs.