Laser machines have made cutting and engraving materials easier and faster than ever before.
Now, people prefer having a laser machine to get optimal results in the shortest time possible.
With the advancement of technology, laser cutting technology has also evolved.
Nowadays, we have different types of laser machines available on the market, and each of them has distinct features, compatibility, budget, capabilities, and other characteristics.
For a beginner, it becomes quite difficult to choose the right type of laser machine when there are various available. It is a must to understand what different laser technologies are and which one is better for what.
In this article, we are going to give you a detailed guide on fiber lasers, CO2 lasers, and diode lasers.
We will explain everything you need to know and clear all your doubts so that you can make the right decision without any hassle.
You might be thinking why this laser is called a CO2 laser. Does it emit CO2 gas?
The reason behind this name is the CO2 laser tube. This is a glass tube that contains various gasses, including CO2, helium, nitrogen, and oxygen.
When a potential difference is applied at the terminals of this tube, a reaction occurs due to the excitation of gas molecules. Then, laser beams are produced. It is the main component of the laser machine.
The life of a CO2 laser tube is around 8,000 to 10,000 hours. After that, the laser tube is changed, and the machine starts working like a new one.
Once the laser beams are produced, they are directed in the desired direction through mirrors. Finally, they are focused on a small spot by using a lens.
CO2 laser machines are quite powerful, and they are ideal for cutting and engraving materials. These save a lot of time because of the immense optical power and high speed.
The laser beams of a CO2 laser have a wavelength of 10,600nm, which is ideal for a wide range of non-metals.
The materials easily absorb this wavelength, and that’s why cutting and laser engraving happen.
With a CO2 laser machine, it is possible to cut plywood, MDF, softwood, hardwood, leather, acrylic, fabric, cardboard, paper, rubber, etc.
It can engrave the materials it can cut along with some other materials, such as rock, ceramic, glass, felt, EVA pad, and various metals.
A CO2 laser covers a wide range of non-metals, so if you want to cut and engrave such materials, it could be the best choice.
It is available in all sizes from a desktop laser machine to an industrial one. If you want to start a small laser cutting and engraving business, a desktop laser machine is enough.
You can use it at your home, and process a variety of materials. For commercial purposes and large-scale businesses, there are commercial machines.
The cost of the CO2 laser depends on its size and other specifications. The price of a desktop laser machine starts from $3,000 and can go up to $7,500.
Commercial machines are quite costly, and they can cost around $15,000 to $20,000 or even more.
Diode laser machines are quite popular among DIY enthusiasts, small business owners, professionals, and those who like to customize parts and items for their products.
These laser machines are the most affordable laser machines on the market, and the best part is that their lifespan is more than 25,000 hours. These require minimal maintenance, and the running cost is also nominal.
If you are a person who wants to get hands-on experience with a laser machine and want to buy it, it could be an excellent option.
These machines are beginner-friendly, affordable, portable, and upgradeable. The cost of a small desktop laser machine would be around $600 to $1,200.
Diode laser machines have power didoes that produce laser beams. There can be one or multiple diodes in the laser modules.
All of them produce laser beams, and finally, all beams are merged at a tiny spot using lenses and mirrors.
It is one of the blessings of semiconductors that we can now have a laser cutting and engraving machine at an affordable price.
The laser beams emitted from a laser diode laser have a wavelength of around 450nm. If you see this laser from the naked eye, you will experience the blue color.
It is also called blue laser because of this reason. These lasers are also ideal for cutting and engraving non-metals. The laser beams are quickly absorbed by various non-metals, but a CO2 laser is still more versatile.
You can cut wood, plywood, engineered wood, acrylic, leather, cardboard, and some other materials. It can engrave the mentioned materials and ceramics, stone, glass, and metals.
Some powerful diode laser machines can also offer color engraving of metals, which is commendable.
Diode lasers are less powerful than CO2 lasers, but nowadays, you can find diode lasers having an optical power of 40W.
So, now cutting materials using diode lasers is faster than ever before. These laser machines are definitely worth a try.
Fiber lasers are the most advanced laser machines because of their state-of-the-art laser technology.
These laser machines are called fiber lasers because they contain a fiber optics cable that takes the performance of the laser machine to the next level.
Fiber lasers also have a laser-emitting source, which could be diodes. When these laser beams are emitted, they are directed toward the fiber optics.
The advantage of fiber optics is that it can be doped. A suitable material is used to dope the cable, and this doping decides the wavelength of the final output.
The wavelength of fiber lasers varies from 780 nm to 2200 nm. If the cable is doped with ytterbium, then the wavelength will be 1064nm.
Similarly, if it is doped with neodymium, the wavelength will be around 780 nm to 1100 nm. There are different materials used for doping, such as neodymium, ytterbium, thulium, holmium, erbium, and dysprosium.
The wavelength or doping of the fiber optics decides where the fiber laser will be used. These lasers are versatile and specifically made for various purposes, such as metal cleaning, metal engraving, metal cutting, metal welding, etc. Thus, you need to check the wavelength of the laser machine to understand its purpose.
Fiber lasers are usually used for cutting and engraving metals, but they can also process some non-metals.
We have discussed CO2 and diode lasers, which can only cut non-metals, but fiber lasers are extremely powerful.
Their optical power can be several hundred to several thousand watts. Therefore, there is no comparison of fiber lasers with other technologies.
These lasers are used for industrial and commercial purposes. They are quite expensive and can cost around $20,000 or even more, depending on the features and other specifications.
For large-scale businesses, these are suitable. If you want a laser machine for a small business, DIY, or hobby, it is better to go with a CO2 or diode laser machine.
How To Choose The Right Laser Machine?
We are sharing some of the important factors that you should consider while buying a laser machine.
Undoubtedly, you also have to look at additional features, but these factors help you select the right laser engraving machine.
Purpose Of Buying The Laser Machine
The first thing you need to consider is the purpose of buying a laser machine. For instance, if you are buying a laser machine for DIY, you should go with a diode laser.
For small businesses, a CO2 laser is an excellent option. But you can also get a commercial CO2 laser machine for large-scale businesses.
You need to decide on the basis of the materials you want to process. We have already discussed what different lasers can cut and engrave.
For processing non-metals, CO2 and diode lasers are ideal, and for metals, there is no other option except fiber lasers.
The optical power of a laser machine is the most important specification. It defines the real power of the laser and what it can do.
You will also see other powers, such as machine power and module electric power. These powers do not define how powerful the laser is.
So, do not get confused with these. Always look at the optical power before making a decision.
The optical power of a desktop diode laser machine ranges from 5W to 40W. The 5W and 10W laser modules are suitable for engraving because of the fine laser spot.
Although they can cut materials, they are quite slow at that. For cutting, it is better to get a 20W laser module.
You can also get the world’s first 40W laser module, which is available at xTool. The best part is that in some diode laser machines, you can change the laser module for optimal engraving and cutting results.
CO2 lasers are more powerful. The desktop laser machines have an optical power of around 30W to 60W.
These are excellent for cutting and engraving materials. Commercial machines have more optical power, which is above 60W and can go up to 200W.
The optical power of a fiber laser can be 20W to 5000W or even more. These are selected on the basis of the purpose of buying the machine.
The speed of the laser machine matters because it defines how fast the machine can do that job. The maximum speed of the desktop laser machine is usually 250-600 mm/s.
Keep in mind that the speed of engraving is always more than the speed of cutting. Check the speed of the laser machines for a quick comparison.
It is a must to check the working area of the laser machine. You need to see the dimensions to get a better idea of what the machine can process. If the area is large, you will be able to process a wider range of objects.
Laser machines are known for their accuracy. You won’t find any errors in engraving or cutting because these are accurate to a small fraction of a millimeter.
However, the accuracy of the laser machines differs. Some have low accuracy, which does not offer clean vector cutting.
Make sure to check the accuracy while comparing the machines. Some desktop laser machines, such as xTool D1 Pro, can even offer 0.0004 inches of movement accuracy, which is incredible.
Laser machines should have safety features to prevent accidents and losses. First of all, there should be a fire detection system that can detect the flame and turn off the machine at the right time.
Some machines are also equipped with an automatic fire extinguishing system.
The machine should have a proper exhaust system to take out the smoke and smell from the working area.
It is a must because the smoke produced while cutting and engraving materials can be dangerous for the operators.
There should be tip-over safety because kids and pets can disturb the laser machine. The tip-over safety turns the machine off.
Moreover, the machine should be enclosed, but if it is not, the laser module should be covered with a light filtering cover.
The machine should also have an emergency stop button. It is quite helpful when the machine misbehaves or there is an issue. It stops the machine immediately.
These are the mandatory safety features, but there can be more. So, check out all the safety features of the machine because safety is the priority.