How Laser Cutting Works
Just laser cutting is having gas, mixtures of gases excited enough electronically, that emits a light beam that basically just cuts the material, it evaporates the material. To the best of my abilities laser cutting is generated by a power supply that creates a laser beam which is, basically like Neil said, light mixed with an inert gas and pressurized to cut through the material, whatever that material might be.
We focus more on just metals at PCI but it can be used to cut plastics, woods, papers, glass all different sorts of things. The gas is inside the laser cutter, it is not actually getting blown through the material, what is getting blown through the material is your assist gas which helps get the materials out the way, which is either oxygen, nitrogen or argon.
Risks of Laser Cutting
There is risk with laser cutting, you know the beam could reflect off of something and potentially bounce through an area that you are not intending for that laser beam to bounce through. As far as it blowing up, the gases that we use, the only thing that is combustible could be the oxygen. So if there would ever be an oxygen leak, there is some risk with that but the nitrogen, the argon those are non-flammable gases, so they are less likely to actually blow up as you say other than if we are using oxygen or have a serious oxygen problem.
The reason the laser is moving is, it is actually cutting the geometry of the part, the axes on the machine are moving to take the form of that part that it is cutting. The sparks are basically the material being cut away so they are being basically evaporated to that’s why you see the sparks. The standard sheet size we have for the 11 different lasers that we have range from 4 by 8 sheets, up unto our largest bed is actually a 5 by 10 sheet capacity. We can use smaller materials than that but those are our max sizes, so in 4 of our machine we can use up to a 4 by 8 and the other machines I think they can cut up to 5 by 10. Anything smaller than that is perfectly ok it is just those are the max sizes.
Speed of Cutting
The speed of it cutting depends on the type of material that you are cutting, the thickness of the material that you are cutting. Thin parts you can cut up to 5,6,700 inches a minute, when you are getting into the thicker materials you are not cutting anywhere near that fast. Right now currently to PCI we have 2 different types of machines, we have CO2 based machines and we also have fibre optic machines.
Those 2 different machines vary, the fibre optic is a newer technology to the market, so it is becoming more prevalent in certain areas for the last 5 years or so, it has really come on strong in the last 2 years, 2 or 3 years especially domestically in the United States, those are the 2 options we have here at PCI.