What Is CNC Laser Cutting Machine: A Comprehensive Guide

I. Introduction

CNC laser cutting machine is a modern equipment for cutting and fabrication via laser beam. It is composed of components like a laser, a CNC system, and a cutting head, which can proceed with high-precision, high-efficiency cutting on metal and non-metal materials.

The appearance of CNC laser cutting machines significantly improves the automatic level and production efficiency in manufacturing and processing and has been widely used in machinery manufacturing, aerospace, automobile, electronics, and other industries.

Our passage will introduce the working principle, types, and applications in various CNC laser cutting machine industries.

Besides, our passage will discuss the future trends of CNC laser cutting machine technology and how it pushes the innovation and development of manufacturing and other related industries.

II. Understanding CNC Laser Cutting Machines

Definition of CNC laser cutting

CNC laser cutting is a thermal processing technology that uses a high-power density laser beam to melt, vaporize, or chemically react the workpiece under the control of the CNC system.

It integrates optical, mechanical, electrical, and computer technologies, representing the direction of development of modern manufacturing technology.

How CNC laser cutting machines work

The working process of a CNC laser cutting machine can be described as the high energy density laser beam generated by lasers irradiating to the workpiece surface via an optical system, making the material quickly heated, melted, and vaporized.

At the same time, the CNC system controls the cutting head and moves along the predecided rails, finally forming the cutting patterns on the workpiece.

Types of CNC laser cutting machines

According to the differences in laser type and processing format, CNC laser cutting machines can be divided into the following types:

CO2 laser cutting machine: it adopts CO2 gas lasers, a large processing format, suitable for cutting non-metal materials and parts of metal materials.

Fiber laser cutting machine: it adopts fiber laser, and has a good quality laser beam, small light spot, and high cutting precision, especially suitable for cutting metal materials.

Plane-cutting machine: the processing object is a flat workpiece, like sheets, plates, etc.

Pipe cutting machine: especially suitable for cutting fabrication like round tubes, square tubes, and special-shaped tubes.

Advantages over traditional cutting methods

Compared with traditional cutting methods, like plasma cutting, and flame cutting, the CNC laser cutting machine has the following advantages:

High-quality cutting: heat affected zone is small, the cutting slit is narrow, and the verticality of the cutting surface is high, with no burrs, no need to proceed secondarily.

High-efficiency processing: cutting speed is fast, and the efficiency is several times of traditional cutting approaches.

High precision: the position precision can be up to ±0.05mm under the control of the CNC system, which is higher than manual cutting.

Widespread applicable materials: CNC laser cutting machine can cut both metal and non-metal material, like stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum alloy, organic glass, wood, etc.

Flexible operation: it adopts CNC programming, which can directly form cutting codes from CAD patterns, is fast and accurate, and is convenient to modify.

High-automatic level: the cutting process is controlled by a CNC system, which reduces manual intervention, improving production efficiency.

III. Components of CNC Laser Cutting Machines

Laser source

Laser resource is the core component of CNC laser cutting machine, which is used to generate high-power density laser beams. The common lasers are CO2 and fiber lasers.

CO2 laser: it uses Co2 gas as a working substance and is excited by high-voltage discharge, the wavelength is 10.6μm infrared laser. It has bigger power, suitable for cutting non-metallic materials and thicker metal materials.

Fiber laser: it adopts fiber doped with rare earth elements as the gain medium, and generates 1.06μm infrared laser via semiconductor laser diode pumping. It has good quality laser beams, and high energy density, which is suitable for cutting metal materials.

CNC controller

cnc controller

The CNC system is the brain of the CNC laser cutting machine, which is responsible for controlling every part of the machine components and achieving automatic cutting. It is mainly composed of a computer, motion control card, driver, servo motor, etc.

Computer: it is used for programming, storing processing programs, sending control instructions, etc.

Motion control card: used to convert computer control instructions into electrical signals to control the movement of servo motors.

Driver: it is used to receive the electricity signal of the motion card, driving the servo motor to work.

Servo motor: it is used to drive the cutting head and workbench movement, finishing the cutting movement.

Optics system

The optical system is used to transmit and focus the laser beam, focusing the laser energy to the small point on the workpiece surface to achieve cutting. It is made up of a reflector, a focusing mirror, etc.

Reflector: it is used to change the transmission direction of the laser beam, guiding the laser beam to the cutting head.

Focusing mirror: it is used to focus the laser beam on the surface of the workpiece, forming the high energy density focus. The focal length of the focusing lens determines the size of the light spot.

Workpiece holding system

A workpiece holding system is used to fix and support the workpiece to be cut, ensuring the stability of the workpiece during the cutting process. The common fixation way has vacuum adsorption and mechanical clamps.

Vacuum adsorption: many small holes are opened on the cutting platform, and atmospheric pressure is used to firmly adsorb the workpiece to the platform after vacuuming. This method is suitable for thin plate workpieces.

Mechanical clamps: it adopts various mechanical clamps, like vise, chuck, etc., which can fix the workpiece firmly on the cutting platform. This method is suitable for special-shaped workpieces such as pipes and profiles.

Exhaust system

The exhaust system is used to absorb smoke and exhaust gas generated during the cutting process, keeping the cutting area clean, and prolonging the user lifespan. It is mainly composed of fans, filtering devices, etc.

Fan: it is used to generate negative pressure, and absorb the smoke and exhaust gas into the exhaust duct.

Filtering devices: it is used to filter the inhaled smoke and exhaust gas, and reduce the pollution to the environment. The common-use filtering device has a high-efficiency filter (HEPA), activated carbon filter, etc.

Cutting bed

A cutting bed is used to locate and support the surface of the workpiece, usually adopting the honeycomb or strip structure to reduce the contact area with the workpiece, beneficial for smoke and exhaust gas emission. The size of the cutting table determines the size of the processing format.

Assist gas system

Assistant gas plays an important role in CNC laser cuts, and it mainly has the following functions:

Protecting the cutting head optical component, to avoid the pollution of splashes. Blow away the melted material, and improve the cutting quality.

Lower the cutting zone temperature, and reduce the heated effect. Prevent oxidation of material surface, and improve the section quality.

The common use of assistant gas includes nitrogen, oxygen, air, etc. The choice of gas depends on the type of material being cut.

laser cutting machine

IV. How to Operate a CNC Laser Cutting Machine

Setting up the machine

Firstly, the metal sheet to be cut or tube plates should be fixed on the workbench. This can ensure the material is stable and prepares for the cutting basic procedures. In the following steps, open the machine and use the switch to start the laser cutting machine. At the same time, open the exhaust deodorizer to keep the working environment clean.

Loading the design file

Start with a simple design file. Download your favorite design file, import it into your design software, and prepare it for laser processing. Based on the working requirement, you may need to work with vector files, CAD and 3D design files, and sometimes raster files.

Adjusting cutting parameters

Setting the cutting parameter correctly is the key to achieving precise cutting.

Running the cutting process

After all the prepared work is done, the CNC system can be used to control the cutting process of the laser cutting machine.

These steps involve the precise operation of the machine, including but not limited to the material’s choice, program, and cut.

Safety precautions to consider

Strictly obey the safety operation and maintenance regulations when operating the CNC laser cutting machine.

This includes but is not limited to, ensuring the safe holding of cutting materials, adjusting equipment parameters to suit material type and thickness, and operator training.

laser cutting machine

V. Advantages of CNC Laser Cutting

Advantages             Specific manifestations
High precision and good cutting quality-The laser beam has a small diameter (0.1~0.2mm), high energy density after focusing
-Nonmetal materials: acrylic, rubber, plastic, wood, leather, paper, etc.
-Flat and smooth cutting, basically no burrs, no need for secondary processing
-High positioning accuracy, up to ± 0.05mm
-Can process complex and fine patterns such as gears, text, patterns, etc
Widely applicable materials and high processing flexibility-Can cut metal and non-metallic materials
-Metal materials: carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloy, copper, titanium, etc.
-By adjusting laser power, cutting speed, and other parameters, can adapt to different materials and thicknesses
-By adjusting laser power, cutting speed and other parameters, can adapt to different materials and thicknesses
-Can achieve special processing such as oblique cutting and irregular cutting
-Can cut along any curve and complex contour, with a wide processing range
High production efficiency and cost-effectiveness-Fast cutting speed, generally 1-10m/min, up to 100m/min
-Short clamping time, no need to replace tools and fixtures
-Using CAD/CAM software, simple and fast programming
-High degree of automation, automatically controlled by CNC system, reducing manual intervention
-Comprehensive cost-effectiveness better than traditional cutting methods

VI. Limitations and Challenges of CNC Laser Cutting Machines

Limitations and challengesSpecific performanceSolution
Material thickness limit– CO2 laser cutting machine:-Using other methods such as plasma cutting or flame cutting
0.5-25mm carbon steel
0.5-12mm stainless steel
0.5-6mm aluminum alloy
– Fiber laser cutting machine:
0.5-20mm carbon steel
0.5-10mm stainless steel
0.5-8mm aluminum alloy
– When the thickness increases, efficiency and quality decrease.
Material compatibility issues– High reflectance materials (aluminum, copper, brass, etc.): low cutting efficiency, poor cut quality.– Using specialized assisting gas.
– Adjusting laser parameters.
-Applying an absorbent coating on the material surface.
– Easily oxidizable materials (titanium alloys, etc.): prone to forming oxide film, affecting cut quality.
– Transparent or semi-transparent materials (acrylic, glass, etc.): laser beam easily penetrates, difficult to form cuts.
– Fiber-reinforced composite materials (carbon fiber, glass fiber, etc.): prone to deformation and delamination during cutting process, resulting in poor cut quality.
High maintenance requirements– The laser has a limited lifespan (CO2: 2000-4000 hours, Fiber: 50,000 hours or more).– Equipped with professional maintenance personnel
– Conduct regular preventive maintenance
– Timely replacement of wearing parts
– The focusing lens is prone to contamination and needs regular cleaning and replacement.
– The cutting platform guides and transmission components require regular lubrication and calibration.
– The auxiliary gas system and exhaust system need regular inspection and maintenance.
High initial investment cost-The price of a laser cutting machine is high (ranging from tens of thousands to several million RMB).-In the long run, high efficiency, high quality, and low operating costs can compensate for the initial investment.
-It requires auxiliary equipment such as an air compressor, chiller, and exhaust system.
– Fiber-reinforced composite materials (carbon fiber, glass fiber, etc.): prone to deformation and delamination during the cutting process, resulting in poor cut quality.

VII. Conclusion

CNC laser cutting machine is an essential equipment in modern manufacturing, which can improve production efficiency, ensure product quality, and achieve intelligent manufacturing.

ADH machine tool can offer you more tips on introducing the laser cutting machine, you can browse our official website for details or contact our salesman.

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