Laser cutters, laser cutting, laser cutting tools

Laser Cutting Tools Selection Guide

Coherent's Laser Tools are the most advanced laser cutting tools available today. Laser power control, motion control, automation and software work together to provide the highest power laser cutter in the smallest package.


 
Contact Us . . .

For more information on anyContact Us of our compact and flexible laser cutters and laser cutting tools, or to be added to our mail list, please use our Contact Us form.

Please remember to include a short summary of your application so we can more efficiently respond to your request.

META Laser Cutting System
The META laser cutter offers the ability to process a wide range of both metals and non-metals.
META laser cutter
METABEAM Laser Machine Tool
Compact and powerful metal focused laser cutting machine for prototype to high volume manufacturing applications.
MetaBeam laser cutting machine tool
Laser Machine Tool Production Automation (PA) Options
Production Automation (PA) options designed to enhance productivity in the highest volume production environments.
production automation options for laser cutting
 
 
Application
Material
Product
 
Cutting Composite
 
Cutting Acrylic
Corian up to 3/4 inch
• META 
• METABEAM  
 
Cutting Plastic
Fiberglass up to 1/4 inch
• META 
• METABEAM 
  
Cutting Composites
Composites up to 1/2 inch
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Plastic
Phenolic up to 1/4 inch
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Fabric
 
Cutting Fabrics
Textiles, Cotton, Kevlar, Polyester, Velcro
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Flexible Circuits
 
Cutting Polymide
Flexible Circuits, Polyester, Polyimide (Kapton)
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Metals
 
Cutting Metals
Alloy Steel, Aluminum Alloys, Brass, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Tool Steel
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Organics
 
Cutting Organics
Leather, Rubber, Cork, Wax up to 9 mm
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
Cutting Paper
 
Cutting Paper
Cardboard, Matte Board, Paper
• META 
• METABEAM
 
Cutting Plastics
 
Cutting Rubber
Acrylic, Delrin, Mylar, Nylon, Polycarbonate, Polyester, Styrene up to 1 inch
• META 
• METABEAM 
 
 
Cutting Wood
 
Cutting Wood
Masonite, Plywood, Veneer, Other Woods up to 3/4 inch
• META 
• METABEAM 
 

 

 

Laser cutting greatly simplifies the design and manufacturing process in any production environment. Laser cutting frees you to design complex parts that are difficult to make with conventional tools. Any pattern drawn on a computer can be directly cut or engraved from many materials without tooling - quickly turning an idea into a manufactured part. The focused laser beam as small as .004"— produces intricate detail and very sharp corners. The laser process is non-contact, allowing delicate materials to be cut without damage.

Laser Cutting to Replace Steel Rule Dies

Steel rule dies are still used for cutting many thin sheet materials in production. Steel rule dies are difficult to design, slow and expensive to make and greatly limit the geometry you can cut. They are also large and expensive to store. They are efficient for cutting very large quantities of simple shapes, but are impractical for prototypes, small part quantities or fast turn-around.

An example is GM Nameplate, based in Seattle. They are a large manufacturer of nameplates, graphic overlays, labels, membrane switches and precision printed products. The have an inventory of thousands of steel rule dies, and storage alone is a problem. They initially bought a Coherent laser cutting machine for cutting thin Lexan sheets. It was so cost-effective that they have since purchased a laser cutter for each of their 5 plants.

For many jobs, they find that die cutting requires many days of design, 1-2 weeks to get the die made outside and many hours to setup a machine to cut. By contrast, a designer can start cutting a prototype part on a laser cutting machine almost immediately. From there, they can go directly to production parts without tooling. GM Nameplate currently estimates that for quantities as high as 8,000 parts, laser cutters are much faster and less expensive than die-cutting. (This number can vary depending on the particular part.) In addition, GM Nameplate’s designers are now free to make much more complicated parts than they could with die cutting.

Laser Cutting Replaces CNC Routers

Many companies use mechanical cutters (routers) to cut flat sheet material. These can be computer controlled X-Y tables, or pin-routers which manually follow a pattern. Routers have many limitations. Cutting tools can wear out or become gummed-up from materials that contain adhesives. The diameter of most cutting tools are typically 1/8" or 1/4", which limits the detail that can be cut and does not allow sharp inside corners. (While you can find cutting bits that are much smaller in diameter, you can only do so at the expense of high speed and motion.) In addition, the material has to be clamped in place and the tool path must be carefully controlled so that inside shapes are cut before outside shapes.

By contrast, laser cutting is much faster, more flexible, and more precise. It also allows cutting thicker material. Programming is much simpler and there is less worry about the diameter of the cutter and the tool path.

Laser Cutting of Complex Shapes

Some complex designs simply cannot be made with conventional cutting tools. In these cases, the only apparent solution may be making injection molded parts. This is prohibitively expensive for small quantities.

For example, a Texas company manufactures complex electronic connectors for aerospace applications. Their design requires cutting a complex pattern from small, flat plastic components. They have a large number of designs but need limited quantities of each part. Laser cutting was the best option for them, and has allowed them to greatly reduce costs in their manufacturing process.

Laser Cutting is Non-Contact

Some materials are too sensitive or easily damaged to be cut with mechanical tools, but are not damaged by the focused energy of the laser beam.

Fabrics. There are many applications for cutting fabric. A typical problem is that fabric can stretch or fray when cut mechanically. The laser on the other hand, does not distort the material and (especially with synthetics) can fuse the edges to prevent fraying.

MLI Blankets are used for wrapping satellites in space, protecting them from heat damage caused by the sun. They are made of polyester and polyimide and have many thin and delicate layers. Most cutting techniques cause shredding or welding of the layers when administered. Laser cutting, however, allows the material to be cut precisely and without harm to the layers or the blanket itself because it is non-contact.

Fabrics can also be kiss-cut, allowing layering processes to be streamlined. A customer makes iron-on patches with sports lettering. This lettering is two-colored, with the same word and font glued on top of one another, to create an outline effect. They used to cut the two pieces separately using a knife-cutter, then painstakingly glue each piece together by hand. Now, they simply glue the top fabric onto the bottom fabric and place the entire swatch onto the laser cutting table. The machine kiss-cuts the top layer (meaning it only cuts the top layer—the laser does not reach the bottom layer), and then doubles back and cuts the bottom layer—all within the same job. Because the handwork has been eliminated, precision and time-savings have increased dramatically.

Heating Elements. Another application is for a company that makes heater elements for toasters. These are made from sheets of compressed mica. The material tends to break or chip when mechanically cut, but laser cuts it extremely well.

The Laser as an Engineering Design Tool

Coherent laser cutting machines are extremely powerful tools when used by designers to create quick prototypes, fixturing or models. For designers using CAD programs, laser cutters are as easy to use as a printer, and allow them to immediately turn complex designs into reality.

Raychem (Menlo Park, CA) uses laser cutters in their R&D design lab to create quick models, prototypes and displays.

Stanford University uses a laser cutter in their Product Design lab. Students use it extensively as a design and prototyping tool.

Industrial Light & Magic, a Lucas film company, provides visual effects services to the entertainment industry. They use a laser machine to create models and a variety of related processes required in the production of visual effects. Their machine has been used for a number of movies, including Star Wars: Episode II and The Matrix Reloaded.
 

 

Manufacturers of laser machines often publish performance specifications as a guide for comparing their machine against the competition. Of course, the specifications provided will favor that company’s machine, and they may be based on actual measured performance, or on the theoretical optimal performance of motors and positioning systems. The reliability of quoted performance often depends on the honesty of the manufacturer.

To complicate matters even further, cut speed comparison terms are often unique to particular manufacturers, and may include terms such as inches-per-minute; inches per second; feed rates; slew speed; rapids; acceleration; look ahead contouring; multiple heads; laser type; laser power; laser pulse rate; energy absorption; edge quality; mechanical accuracy; laser wavelength; “easy” job set up and many more.

But how useful is any of this information in determining your particular needs?

The True Test: Throughput

Despite all of the different claims you may encounter, the only speed measurement that matters is throughput - how many finished parts can the machine produce each hour that are of suitable quality and accuracy?. And ultimately, the only true calculation you should rely on is the machine’s actual performance on your materials and typical parts.

To determine throughput, have the potential manufacturer(s) cut a standard part and material. Find out:

  • Is the software user-friendly and functional for your needs? How easily and quickly can you set up a job for cutting?
  • How many parts can be cut in a typical shift? Be sure to specify the desired finished part quality in terms of precision, dimensions, edge quality, etc. These factors will all affect the final outcome.
  • How much time does it take to load and unload the machine?
  • What is the waste removal process (including fume extraction)?

Once you have this information, you can evaluate whether this machine will fit into your overall cost structure.

Final Results

Cut speed alone does not accurately demonstrate a machine’s performance. There are many factors that affect the final result, and evaluating the machine based on your parts is always the best way to determine the throughput of a machine tool.

Coherent laser cutting machines offer a completely seamless process from start to finish: the software package, material handling, acceleration, laser type, job set-up, finished part quality and, of course, “cut speed” all add up to the best throughput performance at an acceptable cost.

Contact us today to test your materials and find the optimum throughput for your parts.

 
1 kW to 2 kW Flowing Gas CO2
1 kW Sealed CO2
1 kW Fiber
 
+
++
-
Flexibility - metals/organics (pulsed capability, lower threshold, lower power
+
+
-
Works with metals that have PVC coated "laser film"
-
-
+
High Speed
+
+
+
High Quality/Clean Cuts
+
+
-
Process Commonality (flow CO2 to sealed CO2)
-
+
++
COO ($1 to $3/hour vs. $8 to $10/hour)
-
+
+
Consumables (blowers, mirrors, gas, vacuum - in flowing gas CO2)
-
+
+
Long Maintenance Intervals
-
+
+
Size
-
+
+
Weight
+
+
-
Eye Safety
 
.
WARNING: Be aware of job search related scams. Cyber scammers have been posting fraudulent job openings for Coherent on several internet job sites. These positions include acting as "Regional Representatives." These scammers ask job applicants to wire money to individuals in foreign countries. DO NOT DO SO. Coherent does not ask job applicants to wire money to anyone. If you are either the victim of this scammer or if you have received a request to send money to anyone in connection with a Coherent job, please file a formal complaint at www.IC3.gov, which is the website maintained by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership of the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and Bureau of Justice Assistance.



Contact Us