Aug. 19, 2021
Fiber laser cutting has been one of the most "disruptive" technologies introduced to the metalworking market since CO2 lasers were first introduced for cutting in the 1980s. Fiber laser technology is considered to be a disruptive and "revolutionary" change because it has affected the entire status quo in sheet metal manufacturing. The opportunity is easy to realize.
In a relatively short period of time, we have witnessed exponential advances in fiber laser technology for flat sheet metal cutting. In just five years, fiber lasers reached a cutting threshold of 4kW, compared to about four times the cutting time of CO2 lasers. Ten years later, fiber lasers have reached a cutting power level of 15kW. To be fair, fiber lasers have been used by other industries for many years for applications other than sheet metal cutting.
The high power fiber laser cutter cuts 5 times faster than conventional CO2 lasers and uses half the operating costs.
Fiber laser cutters do not require any warm-up time - with CO2 lasers, it typically takes about 10 minutes per start-up.
Fiber laser cutters require no optical path maintenance, such as mirror or lens cleaning, bellows inspection and beam alignment. For CO2 lasers, this can consume another 4 or 5 hours per week.
Fiber lasers have a completely sealed fiber optic beam path both at the power source and at the fiber to the cutting head transmission. The beam is not contaminated by the beam path as it is with CO2 lasers.
The fiber beam path maintains a consistent nozzle beam centering.
Because the integrity of the fiber optic beam remains consistent from day to day, so do the cutting parameters, which require much less adjustment than CO2 lasers.
Fiber laser cutting systems can certainly cut more than 1" thick using higher fiber laser power and can even cut faster when using nitrogen as an auxiliary gas.
What is certain is that if you are working with stainless steel, aluminum, brass or copper, fiber laser technology is the fastest and most economical, regardless of thickness.
What do all these time savings translate into? Higher productivity and more machine capacity! Fiber lasers cut five times faster, produce three to four times more parts per unit of time, and reduce operating costs by 50% compared to CO2, representing a huge opportunity because it creates more machine capacity.
Whatever the final conclusion, don't forget the impact this investment will have on your downstream processes: How will adding this new laser cutting system affect the operational flow before and after parts are cut?
Understanding the need to submit material to the fiber laser in a timely manner will drive new efficiencies in material handling and inventory. Understanding that increased volumes of cut parts require additional bending capacity to accommodate will help prepare the bending area for the increased volume. For manufacturers using CO2 laser cutting systems, the move to fiber optic technology represents a huge window of opportunity that cannot be ignored.
If you run multiple lasers, perhaps you might consider replacing two CO2 laser cutters with one fiber laser? The question of which technology is right for you really comes down to your operation. Is the system right for your particular application? How fast are your parts being produced? How cost effective is it? Consider it all.
XQL is a global supplier of high-quality fiber laser cutting systems, bending machines, automation and laser CNC equipment. We stand for reliability, high-performance innovation, excellent price-performance ratio and user-friendly operation. Don't be hesitate.
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