8 Uses of Laser Cutting and Their Importance
Learn more about laser cutting uses and which industries benefit from them.
Laser cutting has become an increasingly popular method for cutting materials such as metal, plastic, wood, and glass. A wide variety of industries, including automotive and medical device industries use laser cutting because it offers a high degree of accuracy and precision. Each of these industries has different requirements and uses laser cutting in different ways. The automotive industry, for example, utilizes laser cutting to create car parts and components. The medical device industry creates medical devices and implants with laser cutting.
The following article will discuss the eight laser-cutting uses and their importance:
1. Automotive Industry and Laser Cutting
The automotive industry has embraced the advantages offered by laser cutting to produce a range of components. Tolerances in the automotive industry are extremely tight, and laser cutting is a good way to meet these. Laser-cutting’s flexibility and capability to create complex shapes and designs make it a popular technology to produce car parts. In the past, car parts were created with stamping and die-cutting methods. However, these methods are not as accurate nor can they create complex shapes and designs like laser cutting. The type of laser cutter that is used in the automotive industry is a sheet metal laser cutter. Materials that are laser cut in the automotive industry include, but are not limited to, car parts, components, die-castings, forgings, and stampings.
2. Medical Device Industry and Laser Cutting
The medical device industry utilizes laser cutting to produce a variety of products including pacemakers, stents, and catheters. The laser beam melts, vaporizes, or burns away the material, leaving a clean, precise cut. Laser cutting is often used to create products with intricate designs, such as those intended for use within the human body. The type of laser cutting used will depend on the material being cut and the desired final product. For example, some medical devices are made from stainless steel, which can be cut with a CO2 laser. Other materials, such as plastics, can be cut with a fiber laser.
3. Jewelry Industry and Laser Cutting
The jewelry industry is one of the most ancient industries in the world, with a long and rich history. In recent years, however, it has undergone a major transformation, thanks to the advent of laser-cutting technology. While traditional methods of jewelry making relied on manual labor and simple tools, laser cutting has allowed for a much more precise and intricate level of design. As a result, jewelry made with laser cutting is often more intricate than its traditional counterpart. Laser cutting in the jewelry industry is typically used to create detailed patterns and designs in metal, as well as to cut gemstones. It can also be used to engrave text or images onto jewelry pieces. Jewelry products that are commonly made with laser cutting include rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets. The use of laser cutting in the jewelry industry has revolutionized the way that jewelry is made, and has allowed for a whole new level of creativity and design.
4. Ceramic Manufacturing and Laser Cutting
Ceramic manufacturing is the process of shaping and firing ceramic materials to create products. Ceramics can be made from clay, glass, metal, or synthetic materials. Laser cutting can be used in the ceramic manufacturing process to create precise shapes and designs in the material. This type of cutting is often used to create intricate patterns and decorative elements in products. Common examples of products made with laser cutting include tiles, pottery, and sculptures. The type of laser cutting employed in the ceramic industry is typically CO2 laser cutting, which uses a high-powered laser to cut through the material. This type of laser cutting is precise and can create very complex designs. CO2 laser cutting is also relatively fast, making it ideal for use in the ceramic manufacturing process.
5. Silicon Industry and Laser Cutting
When it comes to the silicon industry, laser cutting is a vital process. Silicon manufacturing refers to the production of silicon wafers—thin discs of semiconductor material that are used in the fabrication of various electronic devices. The type of laser cutting used in this industry is known as CO2 laser cutting. It is used to create the small-scale features found on silicon wafers. There are a variety of different products that are produced in the silicon industry, including integrated circuits, solar cells, and semiconductor chips. CO2 laser cutting is used to create intricate patterns on these products, which are then used in a variety of electronic devices.
6. Packaging Industry and Laser Cutting
Packaging refers to the process of enclosing products or items for protection and handling. Laser cutting is utilized in the packaging industry to create various packaging products, such as boxes, containers, and lids. The two main types of laser-cutting technology are used in this industry: fiber lasers and CO2 lasers. CO2 lasers are typically utilized to cut cardboard, paper, and thin plastics. Fiber lasers, on the other hand, are newer, more expensive, and typically used to cut thicker and harder packaging materials.
7. Metalworking Industry and Laser Cutting
Metalworking is the process of shaping and forming metal into desired shapes using various tools. Laser cutting is often employed in the metalworking industry to cut metal into desired shapes. Some common products that are produced are: beams, columns, pipes, tubing, and sheet metal. These products can be used in a variety of industries, such as construction, automotive, and aerospace.
8. Woodworking Industry and Laser Cutting
The woodworking industry is a sector of the manufacturing industry that produces wood products. These products can be used for construction, furniture making, or other purposes. Laser-cutting technology is often utilized in this industry to create precise and intricate designs in wood. Some commonly produced items are: furniture, cabinets, and decorative items. The type of laser cutting used in the woodworking industry is typically a CO2 laser. This type of laser uses a beam of infrared light to cut through wood. The CO2 laser can create very complicated designs due to the high level of precision that it offers. Figure 1 is an example of laser cutting with wood:
Laser cutting with wood.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Chili Palmer
What Is the Importance of Using Laser Cutting?
The importance of laser cutting is in its highly accurate and consistent method of cutting sheet metal. It is also the most effective alternative to the etching process. Laser cutting has several advantages over other methods of sheet metal cutting, including:
- Higher level of precision.
- Ability to cut complex designs.
- Less workpiece contamination.
- Less human error.
- Uses less energy.
For these reasons, laser cutting is now the preferred method of sheet metal cutting for many applications.
How Does Laser Cutting Work?
Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials. The laser beam is focused on the material, and the material is vaporized or burned away. As the laser beam moves across the material, it can cut through it. Laser cutting is a very precise process and can be used to cut through a variety of materials, including sheet metal, steel, and other metals.
What Are the Best Laser Cutting Machines?
Below are the best laser-cutting machines available in the market today:
- Epilog Zing 16 30-Watt CO2 Laser: The Epilog Zing 16 is a powerful laser-cutting machine that can cut through materials up to 4.5 inches thick.
- Trotec Speedy 300 30-Watt CO2 Laser: The Trotec Speedy 300 is another powerful laser cutter that can handle materials up to 0.5 inches thick.
- Full Spectrum Hobby Series 20-Watt CO2 Laser: The Full Spectrum Hobby Series is a great option for those who need a powerful laser cutter but don’t need a large cutting area. It can cut through materials up to 0.25 inches thick.
How Does Laser Cutting Differ for Different Materials?
Laser cutting differs for different materials in that each material has different physical and chemical properties that require different laser settings and processes. For example, metals are generally good reflectors of light, so they require higher-power lasers and special cutting techniques. Plastics, on the other hand, can be cut with lower-power lasers, but the edges of the cut can be very jagged and require post-processing. Glass is a transparent material, so it can be more difficult to cut with a laser. Special techniques, such as using a lens to focus the laser beam, are required to cut glass cleanly.
What Materials Can Be Laser Cut?
There are several materials that can be laser cut, including metal, plastic, and glass. Although the material that can be laser cut will depend on the type of laser used. For example, some laser cutters can only cut certain materials, while others can cut a wide variety of materials. If a CO2 laser cutter is used, a variety of materials can be cut including wood, plastic, glass, and metal. A fiber laser cutter, on the other hand, can cut stainless steel, aluminum, and brass. If you are unsure about what type of laser cutter you have, or what materials it can cut, consult the user manual or contact the manufacturer.
What Materials Cannot Be Laser Cut?
The materials that cannot be laser cut are: highly reflective materials, such as mirrors, thin materials that can easily warp or melt, and materials that are dangerous to cut, such as asbestos or explosives.
Is It Easier To Laser Cut Metal Than Plastic?
Yes, it is easier to laser-cut metal than plastic. Metal is a much more conductive material than plastic, meaning that the heat generated by the laser is more easily conducted away. This effect prevents the material from melting and allows for cleaner, more precise cuts. Additionally, metal is much less likely to deform under the heat of the laser than plastic, meaning that cuts will be more accurate and consistent.
This article presented the eight different laser cutting uses, explained what they are, and discussed the importance of each. To learn more about the uses of laser cutting, contact a Xometry representative.
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