3 Types of Laser – The “Heart” of Laser Equipment

The use of laser technology in industry has become ubiquitous. Lasers are active in almost every area we can think of, from automobile manufacturing, power batteries, to mobile phone manufacturing, aerospace, medical equipment, and even defense and military.

3 Types of Laser

And for many industries, laser technology has become an indispensable support technology.

One of the cores of intelligent manufacturing is photoelectric technology, and one of the cores of photoelectric technology is laser. As the core of many laser equipment, the importance of laser is self-evident.

Take the laser cutting machine as an example: the laser emitted from the laser is focused into a laser beam with high power density through the optical path system. The laser beam is irradiated on the surface of the work piece, so that the work piece reaches the melting or boiling point, and the high-pressure gas coaxial with the beam blows away the molten or vaporized metal. As the relative position of the beam and the work piece moves, the material will eventually form a slit, to achieve the purpose of cutting.

The choice of laser fundamentally determines the processing object and processing conditions.

Classified by gain medium, three industrial lasers with high market share today are: Solid-state lasers, CO2 lasers, and Fiber lasers.

Solid-state Lasers

YAG solid-state lasers

The solid-state laser uses a solid-state laser material as a working medium. This working substance is excited by lamps, semiconductor laser arrays, and other laser light pumps. The most commonly used is YAG solid-state laser.

From processing perspective:

YAG solid-state lasers can cut all kinds of high-reflection materials, such as aluminum and copper, which cannot be cut by CO2 and optical fibers. But are all low power and can only be applied to thin plates below 8mm. The cutting efficiency is much worse and slower than fiber cutting, but it takes up less space and saves space.

From maintenance cost perspective:

YAG solid-state laser, as a laser that has been developed for many years, is also relatively cheap. But the photoelectric conversion efficiency is only 3%.

CO2 Lasers

Solid-state Lasers

Gas laser with CO2 gas as working medium. Its wavelength is about 10.6 μm (infrared), which is a kind of important industrial laser.

From processing perspective:

The CO2 laser cutting machine has a wide cutting range and can cut thicker metal plates. For non-metal materials, such as acrylic, PVC, wood materials, etc. can also be cut. The cutting section is of good quality and smooth, and the cutting speed is slower when processing thick plates.

From maintenance cost perspective:

The CO2 laser cutting machine has high processing and maintenance costs. Not only are the front mirrors and tail mirrors expensive, but the life of the turbine bearings is only 8000 hours, the replacement cost is 80,000 yuan per pair, and the photoelectric conversion efficiency is only about 10%. The laser structure of the CO2 laser cutting machine is complex, it is inconvenient to maintain and requires high operation.

Fiber Laser

YAG solid-state lasers

The fiber laser refers to a laser using a rare-earth-doped glass fiber as a gain medium. Optical fibers are glass solid fibers drawn from SiO2 as a matrix material, its light guiding principle is the use of total reflection of light.

Its application range is very wide, including laser fiber communication, laser space remote communication, industrial shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, laser engraving, laser marking, laser cutting, printing rolls, metal non-metal drilling / cutting / welding, military defense, medical instruments and equipment, large-scale infrastructure, as well as pump sources for other lasers, and so on.

From processing perspective:

Fiber laser cutting machine can cut all kinds of metal plates. When cutting thin plates, the speed is 2 to 3 times that of the CO2 laser cutting machine. The cross-section quality is smooth, and with the increase of power, it can cut thicker plates. The beam quality is excellent, the focal spot diameter is small, the precision processing is possible and it’s suitable for flexible processing.

From maintenance cost perspective:

The fiber laser cutting machine has low maintenance cost, and the photoelectric conversion efficiency can reach 30%. Fiber laser cutting machine has the advantages of adjustment-free, maintenance-free, high stability, and can be used in harsh working environments.

The rapid development of fiber lasers is continuously eroding the market share of CO2 lasers, especially in the field of metal processing. Within a few years, the main position of CO2 lasers has ceased to exist.

But it is undeniable that there are still many applications on the market that other types of lasers cannot do, and only CO2 lasers can be used. The unique wavelength of the CO2 laser makes it the perfect choice for processing some non-metallic materials, such as coding the date of production on beverage bottles. In addition, in the field of thick plate cutting, CO2 lasers still have certain advantages.

On the basis of combining with industrial robots, the level of automation, integration and intelligence of laser processing has continued to improve, enabling multi-dimensional processing such as three-dimensional welding, marking, cutting, etc. The applicability and application areas of laser technology continue to expand.

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