Fiber laser cutting technology continues to advance at an incredible pace and the benefits are quickly being realized by fabricators. Our latest 12kW Fiber laser cutting machines not only represent a leap in cutting speed capabilities but also in cut quality capabilities on thicker plate. Many fabricators who cut materials from thin to thick have maintained their older CO2 machines just to cut the thicker steel materials and a Fiber laser machine to cut the thin to medium range of materials. With the latest BeamShaper option, this is no longer necessary.
Challenges Posed by Beam Characteristics
One of the biggest challenges of cutting thicker plate with oxygen on a Fiber laser has always been the small beam diameter characteristics. After focusing, the small beam became even smaller and so it was difficult to expel large amounts of molten material when utilizing an oxygen assist cutting process. For this reason, the larger beam profile created by the CO2 laser was more beneficial for oxygen cutting of thick steel materials. The small Fiber beam profile though was excellent for the nitrogen assist cutting process, due to the high energy density created by the smaller beam profile and the high-pressure expulsion of the molten material. In fact, this process lends itself quite well even with thick plate cutting of stainless and aluminum materials up to 1.125 inch with Fiber.
Bridging the Gap
The BeamShaper option effectively bridges the gap between CO2 and Fiber laser capabilities with respect to cutting thicker steel plate with oxygen. For the thin to medium thickness materials, the standard Fiber laser beam characteristics provide the benefits. For thicker steel plate cutting with oxygen, the BeamShaper option effectively adapts the beam to a larger beam profile, creating a larger beam width for oxygen cutting of thick mild steel. The results are faster speeds in thick plate processing with oxygen and an edge quality that rivals a CO2 edge. Our latest CNC controlled cutting head also has the ability to change the effective focal length depending on the material to be cut. These technology advancements represent a significant leap for fabricators’ capabilities and the ability to rely on a single laser technology for all their sheet and plate cutting requirements.
Advancements with Cutting Gases
In addition to Fiber laser technology advancements, there have also been significant advancements in the development of cutting parameters utilizing different gases and mixing techniques. While oxygen and nitrogen assist are the mainstay for most laser cutting applications, significant cost reductions, and performance benefits have been realized by utilizing either a dedicated or engineered shop air system for cutting with air assist or introducing a certain percentage of oxygen into the nitrogen cutting process (mixing) to increase speeds and edge quality.
The Right Supplier Makes a Difference
It is difficult to keep up with all these advances unless you have a supplier that can deliver these technologies as part of their standard product offerings. The end-user should be able to apply the latest machine technologies to their fabrication process without much effort and the supplier should be the innovator of new technologies to keep their customers on the cutting edge of performance and competitiveness.
By Frank Arteaga, Head of Product Marketing, NAFTA Region Bystronic Inc., Elgin, IL – Voice.email@example.com