Laser cutters are currently the only tool available that is capable of cutting or marking intricate drawings as minute as 1 millimetre. They’ve been long time favourites within the metal cutting industry – for obvious reasons – but they are gaining momentum in aerospace, automotive, electronics and the medical sector. With an incredibly fast machine, you’ll be able to complete projects professionally and quickly, but how do you know which industrial laser cutter is right for your business? Read this guide carefully before you make any big purchases.
What to look for
Buying a laser cutter is a big investment – and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. You’ll find machines all over the internet, and it’s hard to know what to look for. We’ve narrowed down some of the must have features and the must ask questions so that you don’t end up with a dud.
- Narrow down your criteria
There are actually three main types of cutters to choose from and narrowing your search down to the type you need will cut out a lot of unwanted options. Desktop versions are usually used by hobbyists and small businesses, so this is a good option if you know you’ll only be doing small scale projects every now and again. They also come with built in accessories such as vacuum trays, cooling tanks, and dust collectors. Your second option is a laser wood cutter, which – as the name implies – is designed to cut wood. Your last option is the most traditional industrial laser cutter, called the CNC (computer numeral control). The machine is automated, so you’re able to get the same result over and over, creating detailed and intricate cuts that can be difficult to complete by hand.
- How fast and how energy efficient is it?
With a faster machine, you’ll be able to create more products in less amount of time. That means speed is an important factor that you should look for, especially if you’re in the business of bulk production. In terms of energy, the number of Watts it uses directly relates to what you can do with it. Lower end machines, between 24 to 60 Watts, are ideal for engravings and may be able to do thin cutting operations. From 80 to 180 Watts, you’ll be able to complete heavy cutting – these are considered ‘high production’ machines. If you use a 200 Watt, you’ll be able to cut very thin material without melting it, and with a 500 Watt machine, you can even cut brass, aluminium, titanium, stainless steel and other strong materials. As you can see, the machine you choose is dependent on the tasks you’ll be using it for.
- CO2 or Fibre technologies?
There are currently two types of lasers which make up the majority of the industrial laser cutters on the market. CO2 lasers have been the trusted style for the last two decades, and work by running electricity through a gas filled resonator and uses mirrors to focus the beam. Fibre technology on the other hand, came onto the market in 2008, and uses banks of diodes (electrical components which conduct an electrical current) to create the laser, and then channels and amplifies it through fibre-optic cables – similar to those in the telecommunication industry.
- In terms of which is right for you, it comes down to personal preference. Often, if businesses have been using laser cutting technology for some time, they prefer the CO2 model because it’s what they are comfortable with. This is also a good option for a higher edge quality on thicker materials. However, if you’re wanting a faster performance, then fibre is the answer. They are also able to cut reflective materials – something that CO2 lasers struggle with. At the end of the day however, you will be paying extra for the newest technology, so consider your budget as well.
As you can see, there isn’t really a ‘best laser cutter’ – it actually comes down to which one is the best industrial laser cutter for you. Look at what you’ll be using it for and compare models that best match your needs. If you find you won’t actually be using it as often as you thought, you can always outsource to a professional team. This is a great option if you’ll be needing varied tasks, and you can’t afford to buy multiple laser cutting machines to complete them with.