Which is better: CO2 or Fiber Laser? For long years, this has been a hot topic in manufacturing circles, with laser purists insisting CO2 is the superior technology and those advocating Fiber Lasers insisting the opposite is true. Who is, nevertheless, correct? What is the best technology, and how does it affect your bottom line?
The fact that most manufacturers provide Both CO2 and Fiber Laser Technologies in their machinery product offering is a clue to the answer. They do so because they’ve noticed a significant difference in the technologies, capacities, and, more crucially, performance in specific materials, thicknesses, and applications. It all comes down to the type and thickness of the material you’re cutting.
The term “CO2 laser” refers to the laser’s generation process rather than the light itself. The ions of light particles were split using a number of means (usually RF or DC excitation) in a resonator purged with CO2 gasses at high velocity (turbos or blowers), causing the light particles to smash with each other and split at even greater intervals.
High-contrast markings such as metal annealing, etching, and engraving are best done with fiber lasers. They have a very narrow focus diameter (resulting in a 100-fold increase in intensity over a CO2 system), making them excellent for permanent marking of serial numbers, barcodes, and data matrices on metals. Fiber lasers are commonly utilized in applications such as product traceability (direct component marking) and identification.
Fiber lasers provide a number of advantages, including the fact that they are maintenance-free and have a long service life (our lasers have a minimum of 100,000 operating hours). They’re also more compact than CO2 lasers. Fiber lasers also consume substantially less power than CO2 lasers due to their great electrical efficiency, resulting in significant cost reductions for cutting applications. A fiber laser consumes approximately 18 kW.
How Does a Fiber Laser Work?
Pump light from laser diodes is used to power fiber lasers. These diodes produce light, which is sent through the fiber-optic cable. The cable’s optical components are then employed to generate and magnify a specified wavelength. The final step is to shape and release the laser beam that has resulted.
The fiber receives the light source from the laser cutting machine’s resonator and delivers it to the CNC-controlled cutting head. The laser is emitted from the fiber optic cable’s end and refocused through a succession of focal lenses into a near-perfect dot on the material’s surface in the cutting head. The material to be machined is swiftly vaporized in the intense heart and blown away as dust after being purged with cutting gases such as NO2 and O2.
CO2 and Fiber Laser Comparison
|Advantage CO2 Laser||Disadvantage CO2 Laser|
|Finish: On plate stainless and aluminium workpieces, CO2 Lasers produce higher edge quality.||Operating Costs: Aside from the mirrors, lenses, bellows, and las gasses required to keep the beam path delivery system pure and clean, the power consumption expenses are 70% greater since the CO2 Resonator, Blower, and chiller, among other components, demand significantly more power.|
|Flexibility: CO2 lasers are versatile enough to be used in a variety of laser applications, including non-metals.||Maintenance: All of the above-mentioned components of the beam path delivery system require maintenance which can not only be disruptive to manufacturing but also very costly.|
|Technology: CO2 Lasers have been around for over 30 years, therefore the technology and consequently the results are well-known. This provides a user with a high level of assurance.||Speed: A CO2 Laser just cannot match with a fiber in thin materials. A 4kw CO2 in 16 GA Mild Steel using N2 as a cutting gas, for example, has a recommended cutting speed of just 260IPM, but an equivalent equipped Fiber Laser has a cutting speed of over 1,417 IPM, a significant difference.|
|Advantage Fiber Laser||Disadvantage Fiber Laser|
|Investment Costs: The cost of solid-state laser systems is decreasing as the technology gets more widely used.||Thick Material Finish: The finishes attained in thicker materials, particularly Stainless Steel and Aluminum, are one of the advantages of CO2 lasers. While Fiber Laser technology is not far off, CO2 is still the top in this field as of the writing of this article.|
|Operating Costs: A fiber laser’s power consumption is roughly 1/3rd that of its CO2 counterpart, thanks to lower resonator power requirements and lower cooling requirements. The per-part costs of a fiber laser are extremely advantageous when combined with lower maintenance, fewer consumables, and faster cutting.||Overall Flexibility: CO2 Lasers, as previously stated, have the ability to cut through a larger spectrum of materials, particularly non-metals. While Fiber Technology is catching up and can cut Brass and Copper right out of the box (CO2 Lasers have a hard time with these materials), it still has limitations, particularly in non-metal applications.|
|Speed: There is absolutely no comparison between Fiber Lasers and CO2 Lasers in thin materials. Fiber has a speed that is double to triple that of other materials.||Technology/Comfort Level: If you currently have one or more CO2 laser systems in your facility, you’re likely to lean heavily toward that technology at first because it’s the ‘devil’ you’re familiar with vs. the one you’re unfamiliar with.|
The discussion about CO2 vs. Fiber Laser Technology is probably ending in our sector. Engineers and manufacturers have discovered ways to duplicate the CO2 laser effects and therefore successes as fiber laser technology has matured. They are gaining better results in thicker materials by creating the laser light source in several wavelengths and sending that wavelength across a particularly “tuned” fiber-optic connection. This swiftly eliminates the concerns against Fiber laser technology. Fiber Lasers are also becoming more affordable, bringing them into the reach of a typical small to medium-sized manufacturing firm whose technology was previously out of reach. Fiber has a bright future thanks to its increased capabilities and cheaper investment costs.
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