Comparison of a Fiber Laser vs. a CO2 Laser
Q: Why did you choose a fiber laser over the traditional CO2 laser?
A: As of 2006, fiber lasers have dominated the sheet metal cutting industry. A fiber laser is more energy efficient, cuts faster, and requires less maintenance than a traditional CO2 laser.
A CO2 laser uses an electrical charge to excite a laser gas to produce the cutting beam. This beam is sent through a series of expensive optics (a regular maintenance item) to a cutting head which contain focusing lenses (another regular maintenance item). A turbo blower is used to circulate the laser gas (a regular maintenance item and expensive to rebuilt/replace). Overall the time and expense needed to maintain a CO2 laser is huge.
A fiber laser is a solid state system which doesn’t require a specialized laser gas. The beam is delivered through an efficient fiber-optic cable instead of power robbing and expensive optics, and through a head that uses a shielded lens. The only regular maintenance items are the nozzle, protective lens cover, and water filter, all low-cost and easy to replace. The fiber laser is more energy efficient (30% vs. 5-6% for a CO2), and can cut thinner materials with less wattage than a CO2 creating more energy savings (a 2kW fiber can cut thin materials as fast as a 4-5kW CO2). The fiber laser power source and chiller also have a much smaller footprint than the CO2.
Q: How long will a fiber laser last?
A: The expected life of a fiber laser unit is 100,000+ hours.
Q: Does the fiber optic cable need to be replaced on a regular basis?
A: The fiber optic cable isn’t a normal wear item, and should last the lifetime of the laser unit.
Q: Are fiber lasers more dangerous than CO2 units?
A: There are some precautions that must be taken when guarding a fiber laser beam. We’d like to caution that eye protection should always be used when working with any laser, but a fiber laser operates on a different wave length than a CO2 laser and affects the eye differently. The wave length from a CO2 laser affects the outside of the eye and is less likely to cause permanent damage, but the wave length of a fiber laser will penetrate the eye and cause permanent damage. The cutting area must be guarded with a special filter glass and all Chicago Slitter systems ship with proper guarding of the cutting area.
Q: Do you need to change lenses on the Chicago Slitter system for different materials?
A: No, for the range of material we will cut, a single lens is sufficient.
Q: Do lenses have the tendency to explode with a fiber laser as occurs with CO2 lasers?
A: No. This is a common problem with CO2 systems caused by worn or damaged lenses that leads to hours of downtime while the beam path is cleaned. Because of the way the lens is mounted, improved protection, and cooling for heat in a fiber system, this isn’t a problem.