With the introduction of kilowatt-level fiber lasers in the early 2000s and their subsequent integration into cutting tools in the late 2000s, fiber lasers have transformed laser cutting from a niche method to a mainstream fabrication process. Since then, fiber lasers have dominated the laser cutting of sheet metals because of their ease of integration, reliability, low maintenance, and low capital and operating costs versus prior laser technology, high cutting speeds, and the possibility of scaling up their power. The laser cutting market has grown more than 10 percent annually in the past decade, more than double the rate of other profile cutting processes.
In recent years, the fabrication industry has seen rapid adoption of ultra-high-power (UHP) fiber lasers in the range of 10 to 40 kW for cutting. By following state-of-the-art laser cutting systems each year on FABTECH’s exhibition floor or in its educational seminars, one would have noticed that the maximum power available for cutting has dramatically risen from 6 kW in 2016 to 40 kW in 2022, a nearly sevenfold increase in six years. In the past three years alone, the maximum laser power on cutting systems has jumped from 15 to 40 kW. The fast pace of UHP laser developments has continued this year, led by two notable recent developments: The availability of the 50-kW fiber laser for cutting and its testing in the field; and the release of high-efficiency UHP fiber lasers with electrical efficiencies of more than 50 percent, which offers significant energy savings for high-power cutting applications with high-duty cycles.
The overlapping of three major developments in the past few years has made the UHP cutting trend feasible, namely lowered cost/kW-power of fiber lasers, availability of cutting heads that can handle the ultra-high laser power, and better knowledge of application engineering regarding high-power laser cutting.
Cutting speeds dramatically rise with greater laser power, leading to a substantial reduction of operating costs (including gas usage, cycle time per part, and energy consumption per part) and significantly lower cost-per-part. Cutting speed of most stainless steel thicknesses, for example, more than quadruples by increasing power from 6 kW to 15 kW, while utilizing the same assist gas pressure and nozzle size (i.e., same gas flow) in both low- and high-power cutting, leading to a multiple-fold reduction in gas usage and other operating costs.
Baiwei lasers also allow for dross-free cutting of thick carbon steel and stainless steel with high-pressure air instead of more expensive nitrogen, or oxygen cutting that is much slower. Cutting with air-assist gas is significantly faster than oxygen cutting at high laser powers, as in air cutting—unlike with oxygen cutting—the speed scales up with laser power. For example, when cutting 16-mm thick carbon steel with a 30-kW laser, the cutting speed is greater than 9 m/min with air-assist gas but is only about 2 m/min while using oxygen.
When cutting with nitrogen-assist gas for 10-mm thick stainless steel, the cutting speed increases from about 2 m/min at 6 kW to more than 12 m/min at 15 kW, a sixfold increase with a 2.5X jump in power. This increased speed easily drives a two- to threefold drop in cost-per-part for the most part designs. However, a twofold more productive laser-cutting system is not twice as expensive as the cost of the laser source per kilowatt decreases with increasing laser power and the higher laser cost is absorbed in the overall machine tool cost.
By significantly improving cutting speeds, Baiwei has made laser cutting more competitive versus mechanical-cutting methods such as punching, while preserving the unique advantages (namely flexibility, lack of tool wear, noncontact cutting, and ability to cut intricate thin walls). The advantage of punching versus any profile-cutting process such as a laser is typically in the mass manufacturing of parts of relatively simple geometries, for which the initial upfront tooling cost can be justified. However, as the fabrication industry increasingly demands more flexibility, the high cutting speeds provided by UHP lasers have shifted the cost consideration of laser vs. punching in favor of lasers.
Before the rise of high-power lasers, the common assumption was that lasers were best suited for thinner cutting while plasmas targeted thicker cutting. Although plasmas do perform well in cutting thick metals, the dramatic rise in laser power over the past six years has elevated the perceived laser/plasma thickness boundary in favor of lasers every year.
In metal processing, laser cutting carbon steel occupies a very important position, especially through the use of high-power laser cutting, burr-free cutting, bright surface cutting, and other leading technology, high-quality precision cutting workpieces can be obtained.
As the thickness of the sheet increases, it is necessary to achieve bright surface cutting not only with the support of high-power lasers but also with advanced cutting technology for parameter adjustment, including nozzle selection and focus position will affect the cutting effect.
The carbon steel plate is cut with oxygen and a positive focus method. The thicker the carbon steel, the larger the positive focus, the larger the spot on the surface of the material, and the larger the nozzle size required. (Φ1.0-2.0mm)
The effect of focus on carbon steel cutting:
Within a certain focus range, the larger the positive focus, the smoother and brighter the carbon steel cutting surface.
The effect of nozzles on carbon steel cutting:
The same focal point, the smaller the nozzle size. The smoother and brighter the carbon steel cutting surface, the smaller the taper.
What can 1000W laser cut?
1000W Optical Fiber Laser Cutting Machine is specially used for cutting 0.5-12mm carbon steel; 0.5-4mm stainless steel, galvanized steel; 0.5-3 mm aluminum alloy; 0.5-3 mm brass, and various other thin metal.
The maximum cutting thickness of different materials by 2000W fiber laser cutting machine: the maximum thickness of carbon steel is 16mm; the maximum thickness of stainless steel is 8mm; the maximum thickness of the aluminum plate is 5mm; the maximum thickness of the copper plate is 5mm
A 6kw fiber laser is rated to cut thick steel, 1 thick stainless, and 1 thick aluminum. Fabricators only look at 8 or 10kw lasers if they want to cut thick materials with nitrogen faster than they can with 6kw, or if they’re looking for a cleaner edge than the average laser.
1. Equipped with High power Fiber laser generator and can do cutting of any graphics.
2. Stable and good deformation resistance capability. Aging process technology ensures durability in use and accuracy of the machine.
3. Automatic following focus device realizes dynamic focus continuous cutting on materials with different thicknesses.
4. The working table is equipped with a universal wheel and pneumatic loading device (optional), which saves labor, avoids metal sheet damage, and ensures good cutting quality.
5. Separate digitalized operating table and remote controller is convenient for operation. There are several input modes of USB flash disk data copy, USB cable data transmission, network connections, and other data transmission methods.
6. Standard collocation of automatic nesting software and optional collocation of auto-recognition cutting, save materials and improves working efficiency.
7. The machine can be equipped with an integrated rotary device or detached rotary device and can do fixed position punching, notching, and cutting metal pipes.