Before laser machining, traditional machining tools included mills, planers and lathes.? Although quality results have been achieved with traditional methods, LBM (laser beam machining) creates greater accuracy in less time.
Laser cutting technology uses a laser beam to cut very precise patterns into all sorts of material (including paper, wood, metal and plastic), leaving you with a high quality finished product with refined edges.
A computer directs the high-powered laser beam, and the material is vaporized, burnt or melted.
Laser machining is commonly found in large industrial plants, but current times are finding this type of technology in schools, small businesses and the home of an enthusiastic hobbyist.
Some advantages of laser cutting:
- Precision machining when thin aluminum and steel is being cut.
- Energy efficient.
- A laser beam will not wear down during the process.
- Cutting is faster than traditional methods.
- Contamination of a workpiece is reduced.
- Complex shapes and intricate details can be created with lasers.
Before laser machining, the machine and the work-piece needed to be measured (and calibrated) at least twice. Now, precision machining is possible thanks to this new technology, because the machine is set once with the specifics, and the cutting process is done automatically.
Other Benefits of Multi-Axis Machining Include:
- Laser control with 5-axis machining and 6-axis machining.
- Minimal (if any) distortion to the workpiece.
- No lubricant is needed during the cutting process.
- No manual force applied to workpiece is necessary.
- Ability to cut complex shapes.
- Easier and quicker than traditional cutting methods.
- Contamination to the work-piece is minimal, if at all.
Damaging material is minimal, because laser machining is a much gentler process than the machines used in the past. The versatility is incomparable to traditional cutting, as laser machining can drill, mark and scribe into ceramics and thin metals, as well as process plastic, silicon, diamond and graphite, within one micron.
Negative Aspects of Laser Machining
The negative side of laser machining is minimal, but it is information that needs to be shared.
A laser cutting machine needs to be placed in a well-ventilated area, as some plastics (when melted) may produce toxic fumes.
A few types of material cannot be cut via a laser machine. Copper is usually too thick to be cut with a laser, and more importantly this material reflects too much light. Crystal, glass and other brittle material cannot be properly cut with this type of technology.
Laser beam machining, as stated above, is a quicker process when compared to traditional methods, but consistency may vary, due to the thickness and type of material being cut.
Types of laser machining processes available
Cutting: a laser beam passes over a specific type of material and vaporizes away material, to create a certain type of cut or complex shape.
Drilling: The advantage is that laser drilling allows you to drill into hard to reach places.
Heat Treat: This heat/cold controlled process is useful in industries that need to change the microstructure of metal material.
Scoring: is the process that designs a crease in the material, to allow bending or separating of material to be easier.
Scribing: is when specific types of characters or symbols need to be carved into the material. Laser machining allows this process to be effective and simple.