04 Dec CO2 vs Fibre Laser Machines
What’s the difference between CO2 and Fibre Lasers?
How do they work?
More importantly, which is right for you?
CO2 and Fibre
These are two of the most commonly used laser cutters in use. The difference between them is simply the way in which the laser beam is generated and directed towards the target material. This defines what materials they can work with, due to the differences in laser wavelength and power. Both are generally much more practical, flexible and effective when compared to traditional methods of cutting.
Laser cutting machines in general offer countless benefits. Computerised programming, zero material surface contact and very negligible cutting forces enable:
CO2 Laser Cutters
CO2 Laser Cutters are extremely popular thanks to being cost effective and highly accurate. They are a particularly well suited tool for cutting and engraving an array of materials, from card and leather to woods and plastics. However, they will not cut metals without a high power tube (typically around 150W) and the use of an assist gas such as oxygen. Because of these benefits, many sectors favour CO2 laser cutters; education, industry, small business and even home use. This flexible range of machines suits all budgets, from professional desktop machines, to industry level flatbeds.
How do they work?
The difference between these machines ultimately comes down to the power of the laser used. Electricity flows through a CO2 filled tube to create light. At one end of the tube is a fully reflective mirror, the other end holds a translucent mirror. Similar to the way in which the suns rays can be focussed and intensified using a magnifying glass, this increases the intensity of light as it flows through the gas filled tube. The light finally passes through the partially reflective mirror when it becomes powerful enough. From here it is guided by another series of mirrors and a focussing lens towards the material which the intense laser heat vapourises, leaving a precise and smooth finish.
What are they used for?
From small desktop machines to freestanding flatbeds, our CO2 laser cutter range can be used in many environments and for almost infinite purposes. The flexibility of CO2 machines is extensive. Here are just a few of the areas businesses use them for:
- Engraving barcodes
- 3-D models
- Cutting fabrics
- Personalising phone cases
- Automotive components
Advantages of CO2
All of our cabinet type CO2 machines are Class 1 devices, meaning no laser radiation escapes the enclosure during normal operating conditions. This is the recommended category of laser device for schools and education.
Take a look at the table to see just how many materials this laser can work with
The fine response of this laser enables incredibly precise cutting and engraving
The laser tubes installed in these machines can be expected to work for up to 7 years and are cost effective to replace when expired
Disadvantages of CO2
CO2 Laser mirrors can sometimes become misaligned meaning they have to be adjusted. We offer training for this in order that machine owners can carry out these adjustments themselves.
Fibre Laser Cutters
Fibre lasers are dedicated metal cutting machines which offer unparalleled speed, accuracy and repeatability. They are typically suited to cutting mild and stainless steels as well as non-ferrous metals. Powered by Fibre-Optic laser sources of 500W+, these machines can be configured to cut incredibly thick metals.
How do they work?
The source of the laser largely dictates its strength. Fibre machines work in a similar way to CO2 cutters, however the light is directed through a fibre-optic cable to intensify the beam before being aligned to the material being cut. This results in a more powerful beam compared to a CO2 source.
What are they used for?
These machines are the titans of laser cutting, performing to an extremely high standard whilst maintaining the utmost precision. Continuous production at speed doesn’t hinder them, some of the most lucrative and innovative industries in the world are heavily reliant on fibre laser:
The range of use is vast, from cutting automotive and aerospace parts to finely marking QR and bar codes and batch numbers. Workable materials include:
- Stainless Steel
These machines can cut incredibly thick metals. Our solutions of up to 25 kW allow for cutting an incredible thickness of up to 25mm mild and stainless steels and 15mm aluminium.
Advantages of Fibre
Powerful Fibre lasers can work in just a fraction of the time that a CO2 laser can
No mirror or lens cleaning, nor beam alignment
- Energy efficiency
2-3 times more energy efficient than CO2
Disadvantages of Fibre
The exceptional engineering and high-grade components that make this machine so effective and efficient do come at more of an expense than CO2 machines.
As well as for cutting, fibre is often frequently used in much lower powers such as 20-50W for engraving onto uncoated metals. Unlike a CO2 engraving machine, a fibre engraver requires no ceramic marking compound to be applied to the component first.
The compact design of the fibre laser source means the machine can be much smaller than those using CO2. Your requirements can be tailored to suit your needs. HPC Laser builds fibre laser engravers the size of desktop computer units, to cutters the size of a large room.
So which is right for you?
Ultimately, your operational requirements decide this. If you’re looking to engrave and cut non-metals such as acrylic, woods, card, leather and fabrics a CO2 Laser is perfect. There’s a reason this is such a widely used piece of equipment, it’s exceptional precision allows the most detailed engraving and can even reproduce photographic images. You will probably own several items that these machines have made or been used on (maybe without even knowing it).
The fibre laser is an incredibly powerful piece of equipment, more appropriate for heavy duty metal cutting that a CO2 laser could not provide. If you need a machine to cleanly, accurately and very consistently cut metals, a fibre laser is ideal for you. It excels at working through more rigid materials, hence its use in aerospace and automotive sectors. When considering engraving, fibre machines can also be used for perfectly marking minute details on materials that some CO2 machines cannot.
If you’re still unsure which best suits your needs or would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
+44 (0) 1422 310800
We offer all our potential clients impartial, honest and practical advice when considering which machine and laser power is best suited to your needs. We also offer free of charge bookable machine demonstrations at our showroom in West Yorkshire where you can spend around 90 minutes with one of our engineers to get the best advice around.
We understand that laser cutting machines represent a significant investment, that’s why we offer:
- Onsite training
- Expert service engineers
- Lifetime email and telephone technical support
Alternatively, feel free to explore this site for more information on all these machines.
Our large range can cater for all budgets and can be customised for specific applications.