Laser Beam Cutting (LBC) is a thermal cutting process that utilizes highly localized melting or vaporizing to sever metal with the heat from a beam of coherent light, usually with the assistance of a high-pressure gas. An assist gas is used to remove the melted and volatilized materials from the beam path. Both metallic and non-metallic materials can be cut by the laser beam process. The output beam is often pulsed to very high peak powers in the cutting process, increasing the travel speed of the cutting operation.
The two most common types of industrial lasers are carbon dioxide (CO2) and neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG). A CO2 laser uses a gaseous medium to produce the lasing action while the Nd:YAG use a crystalline material. CO2 lasers are commercially available in powers up to 6kW and Nd:YAG systems are available up to 6kW.
Done by mechanized equipment, laser cutting delivers highly reproducible results with narrow kerf width, minimal heat-affected zone and little-to-no distortion. The process is flexible, easy to automate and offers high cutting speeds with excellent cut quality. Equipment costs are high but are becoming lower as resonator technology becomes less expensive.