An Ultimate Guide to Laser Cutting in Wellington

What’s Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is the process of cutting or giving shape to a material using high-powered laser beam.

It is directed by CNC i.e Computer Numerically Controlled machine from a CAD vector file.

How does it work?

There’re mainly two types of lasers used in cutting:

  • CO2 lasers and neodymium (Nd)
  • Neodymium yttrium-aluminium-garnet (Nd-YAG).

We use only CO2 lasers, so for ease of this introduction I will focus on them.

When a current is passed through the laser tube, laser beam is emitted from it. This points the beam through a focal lens in the machine head.

 

laser beam

The lens focuses the beam onto a point on the surface of a flattened sheet material.

Then melting & vaporisation of the material, especially with plastics leaves a melted, almost polished edge that requires little or no finishing.

A focused cutting beam means that the ‘kerf’ is very little in comparison to a blade or cutting edge.

This does vary from material to material. This also depends upon the thickness. For most purposes it is negligible.

This also permits tight nesting of laser cut parts to reduce waste & make the most of your material.

We recommend you to leave 2 mm between each piece. It is safe.

What can it do?

There’re three separate techniques that can be used with CO2 laser machines.

  1. Vector cutting:

It is the most common application, a full cut through the material following the vector line in the CAD file.

  1. Vector Engraving:

It is a surface level cut onto the material, following the vector line.

It creates an outline or ‘drawing’ onto the surface which is good for adding details to your designs.

  1. Raster Engraving:

raster engraving

In this, the laser works like an inkjet printer. It moves from side to side, thereby turning the laser on & off very quickly.

Slowly moving the line up, the distance between these lines is called the scan-gap.

This can be varied from 0.001mm through to several mm depending on the design & desired effect.

CO2 lasers can cut through a variety of materials, ranging from very thin paper and textiles, through to Plywood, MDF and upto 10mm Acrylic.

Types of Laser Cutters

There are three main types of lasers are:

  • CO2 lasers,
  • fiber,

They’re all built very similarly. They’re distinct in that each type has a specific power range.

Therefore, each can be used to cut through different material types and thicknesses.

  1. CO2 Lasers:

The beam is generated from electrically stimulated gas mixtures mostly comprising of CO2.

CO2 lasers are the most common types as they’re reasonably priced, low power, and efficient.

Materials:

Paper based products, acrylic, glass, Wood, leather, some plastics, and some foams.

  1. Neodymium Lasers:

It is formed from neodymium doped crystals. They’ve a much smaller wavelength than CO2 lasers.

It means they’ve a much higher intensity, and therefore they can cut through much thicker, stronger materials.

However, because they are so high power, parts of the machine wear and tend to need replacing.

Materials: metals, plastics, and some ceramics

  1. Fiber Lasers:

They are made from a seed laser. Then, they’re amplified via special glass fibers.

The lasers have an intensity and wavelength similar to that of the neodymium lasers.

But because of the way they’re built, they need less maintenance. They’re mostly used for laser marking processes.

Materials: metals and plastics

How to use laser cutter

  1. Get a laser cutter.

how to use laser cutter

You can purchase a laser cutting machine, they’re quite costly.

If you don’t want to purchase your own, you can see if you can rent or lease one.

You can also check stores & the Internet for used models that can be sold at a lower price.

  1. Create an image that you wish to cut:

Pick the image that you want to cut. This can be from a camera, a drawing or an image you found online.

You need to upload the image into your computer and into software that works with your laser cutter.

Most laser cutters will use software called CorelDraw; however your model may’ve different software.

  1. Choose the material you are going to cut your image onto:

There’re many different materials that a laser cutter can work with. You need to choose the material appropriately.

Aluminium and glass can also be etched with a laser cutter.

  1. Check to make sure the lens is clean:

Before starting to cut make sure that the lens is clean, or your image and cut may be off.

To check the lens you will have to remove a few screws using a screwdriver.

If the lens needs cleaning, then use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to gently clean it.

  1. Turn on your machine and get ready to cut:

Turn on the machine and wait for it to warm up before starting.

Go to your computer and in your software program > "File" and then > "Print."

A Preferences menu should come up, thereby allowing you to choose the cutting method.

Most machines will have two cutting methods:

  • Raster
  • Vector

"Raster" is used when you wish to engrave something, and "vector" is used when you wish to cut out pieces.

  1. Set your cutter's line width and cutting speed and then cut out your image:

laser cutterYou should set your cutting line as per the material you’ve.

However, you also need to keep in mind that wider lines would take more time to cut.

The cutting speed must also be set as per the material that you’re cutting.

Once all your options are set, you can go ahead and cut your image.

Laser cut vinyl

Several business applications need laser-cut vinyl throughout the manufacturing procedure.

Using it to cut vinyl materials provides unmatched accuracy and precision in the finished product.

If your business uses vinyl graphics, then adding a vinyl laser cutter to your equipment arsenal may puts your business over the top.

A laser beam is a special light beam with characteristics that can move across distances.

It might be of different sizes, from the tiniest beam in a CD player to the biggest beam that needs larger buildings to house it.

 

The medical industry uses lasers for many surgical procedures due to their high precision.

Within the scientific community, scientists are now using lasers because of their significant power and precision.

Getting consumers’ attention is a supreme concern for many companies. Vinyl graphics are the perfect medium for a variety of business requirements.

Companies can create innovative signs, logos, advertising, window graphics, garment graphics, and even prototypes.

One advantage of vinyl graphics is their cost-effectiveness. Vinyl graphics are also an ideal way to add a first-class, modified touch to business displays.

Many businesses add vinyl graphics to window displays or to company vehicles.

A company logo on every vehicle will help spread the word about your business.

Vinyl graphics stick to virtually all types of smooth surfaces including finished metals, glass, automotive paint, electronic devices, and painted drywall.

In the garment manufacturing industry, most of the businesses are switching to laser-cutting appliqués for designing T-shirts.

After laser-cutting vinyl, the next step simply involves applying it to the T-shirt fabric.

It’s even possible to make appliqués that contain multiple colors by mixing vinyl colors & adding them all to the finished design.

About Author:

A.E. Tilley Ltd offers a complete design and manufacturing service throughout New Zealand and in Australia.

We’re also well established electric cable tray manufacturers in Australia.

With our years of experience & in-depth knowledge in this field, we’re engaged in providing good quality electric cable trays.