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What laser to choose? Different lasers, different applications

I want to make a very easy and clear post about what you can do and what you can not do with a 405-445 nm (blue) diode, infrared DPSS 1064 nm (impulse), Co2 (Far infrared) 10.6uM

 

Let’s start with diode 405-445 nm diode lasers

405-445 nm wavelength – visible spectrum, therefore, it can not cut transparent materials like glass, plexiglass, acrylic and all kind of transparent plastics. Engraving process of a white and transparent materials requires some hacks.

  • 100mW-1000 mW (0.1-1 watt) – engraving only on soft materials like wood, plywood, hardboard, cardboard, leather, dark acrylic, MDF.
  • 1000 mW-2500 mW (1-2.5 watt) – engraving on wood, plywood, hardboard, cardboard, leather, dark acrylic, MDF. Cutting of very soft materials like paper,  low-density wood, plywood, acrylic, balsa (up to 1-1.5 mm [1/16”].
  • 2500 mW-5000 mW (2.5-5 watt) – engraving on wood, plywood, hardboard, cardboard, leather, color acrylic, MDF, stone, rock, slate, glass, anodized and painted aluminum. Cutting of different varieties of materials like wood, plywood, acrylic, balsa (up to 1,5-3 mm [1/8”].
  • 5000 mW-10000 mW* (5-10 watt*) – engraving on all soft materials like wood, plywood, hardboard, cardboard, leather, color acrylic, MDF, stone, rock, slate, glass, anodized and painted aluminum, engraving on almost all metals like steel and stainless steel, copper, brass with engraving paste (some sort of metals can be engraved without any paste). Cutting of different varieties of materials like wood, plywood, acrylic, balsa (up to 3-5 mm [3/16”].
  • There are no more than (10000 mw) 10 watt multi-mode single laser diodes on the market. All fiber-coupled units have pretty low focusing abilities and can not be focused well.

* – the most powerful diode is a NICHIA NUBM44/47 on the market with a standard optical power of 7-8 watt. (it can be overdriven to 8.5 watt in CW mode however in impulse mode it can reach 9.5-10 watt in peak power.

 

DPSS (diode-pumped solid-state laser)

Nd:YAG laser with 1064 nm wavelength is an impulse laser good for metal engraving including in-depth metal engraving and metal cutting.  1064 nm is a Near-Infrared spectrum and is not visible. That means that transparent materials like glass, acrylic can not but cut with that wavelength. However impulsive mode allows carrying quite a big energy in a short time frame. That allows DPSS laser to engrave and cut metals. On the other side that high pulse power does not allow to cut soft materials where you need CW power, not in impulse, that is why woodcutting is not possible. Wood just burns and does not allow you to get a decent result.

  • 1000mW-2500 mW (1-2.5 watt) – engraving only on metal surfaces like tin, steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, aluminum, brass, gold, silver, etc
  • 2500mW-5000 mW (2.5-5 watt) – engraving on metal surfaces like tin, steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, aluminum, brass, gold, silver, etc cutting very thin metal sheets up to 0.1 mm (1/240”)
  • 5000mW-7500 mW (5-7.5 watt) – engraving on metal surfaces like tin, steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, aluminum, brass, gold, silver, etc cutting thin metal sheets up to 0.1-0.25 mm (1/120”)
  • 7500mW-10000 mW (7.5-10 watt) – engraving on metal surfaces like tin, steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, aluminum, brass, gold, silver, etc cutting metal sheets up to 0.1-0.75 mm (1/36”)

 

Co2 (glass tube laser)

Co2 laser has the biggest wavelength of 10600 nm (10,6uM) therefore it can cut almost any materials since that wavelength is absorbed very well.

The uniqueness of Co2 lasers is because they have such a long wavelength that is absorbed by all materials quite well. High power allows doing fast and accurate laser cutting almost of all materials. However Co2 tubes have the biggest lifespan limit and some tube do not last more than 2000-3000 hours which is about a 6-9 month of active work.

  • 40 watt cuts 3-5 mm soft materials such as wood, plywood, acrylic, cardboard, hardboard, etc.. Good for rubber engraving (seals and stamps)
  • 80 watt cuts 5-10 mm soft materials. Engraves on rock/stone. Cuts white and transparent materials like glass and acrylic.
  • 150 watt Cuts up to 15 mm of soft materials. Cuts metal up to 1.5 mm with an oxygen
  • 300watt Metal cutting with oxygen up to 3 mm, cuts acrylic up to 30 mm, plywood and wood up to 20 mm.

 

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