What is fiber laser cutting?

What is Fiber laser Cutting?

Fiber laser cutting is a technology that applies a high-powered laser beam generated by a fiber laser to cut through an array of conductive materials such as aluminium, copper, stales steel, mild steel, titanium, gold etc. The laser beam is guided through a flexible optical fiber, which is then concentrated onto the workpiece via a lens. The focused beam generated by the diodes melts or vaporizes the material, allowing the laser to pierce through the different conductive materials.

Fiber laser cutting has an few advantages over other technologies such as plasma cutting (depending on material and thickness) and also compared to older laser cutting technologies such as CO2.

One of its´ advantages are the faster cutting speeds and the greater edge quality in thinner material. Fiberlasers have a higher power density and are able to cut through materials at a rapid rate and with a greater level of precision than plasma cutting.

Other good points in favour of fiberlaser cutting is the high beam quality. Fiber lasers have a far superior beam quality compared to CO2 lasers, which allows them to cut through thin and thicker materials.

The operating costs of fiberlaser cutting machines are far less when compared to CO2 lasers. Operating costs of fiber lasers are more efficient due to that they are up to 80% more energy efficient. This results in lowered operating cost and lead to higher profit margins.

The low maintenance costs on a Fiber laser, also speak hugely in favour of this technology, as there are less consumables and moving parts, unlike CO2 lasers which need the replacement of mirrors and lenses periodically.

The versatility of the Fiber laser cutting machine allows for its´ use in a very broad range of industries, including the aerospace, automotive, medical equipment, and electronics industries.

This technology is also frequently used in metal fabrication, sheet metal processing, and prototyping industries. With the capacity to cut a far-reaching range of metal thicknesses and types, fiber laser cutting is developing into a more popular option as it allows for more considerable flexibility and efficiency in the manufacturing process.

Fiber laser cutting does however have some limitation like not being suitable for transparent materials, or having poor cut quality in reflective materials, it also has a limited depth of cut in thicker metal parts. It’s important to carefully evaluate your manufacturing needs and the suitability of the technology for a given material or thickness that you might use. Before committing to purchasing a fiberlaser cutting machine, the above considerations should be taken into consideration.

Here are two examples of industries showing how the fiberlaser is effective in these specific sectors.

Fiberlaser cutting in the mining industry

As previously mentioned, fiber laser cutting technology is highly flexible and can be adapted to various industries. Even in the mining sector, Fiber laser cutting technology is increasingly being used to cut through a variety of conductive materials. In mining, fiber laser cutting can be used for a variety of applications.

When cutting and fabricating mining equipment and parts, we at MicroStep have the ability of cutting different shapes into conductive metals. Our proprietary technology of additional bevelling process is well suited for scanning already cut parts and processing any weld preparation or bevels onto the edges or countersunk holes. Another advantage that we have at MicroStep is that we can drill, countersink and tap plates that are needed in the fabrication process. Rectangular, square sections and round pipes can also be cut from a diameter of OD 30mm to 500mm.

Therefore, the manufacturing of mining equipment such as drilling equipment, crushers, conveyors and the like, can be manufactured much faster.

In mining, liners are used to protect the wear section of the equipment and machinery from excessive wear and tear.  The 3D bevel cutting feature on the MicroStep fiber laser cutting solution is perfectly suited for cutting of chamfered holes to fit countersunk bolts that are used for attaching theses plates onto the machinery.

In the instance of repair and maintenance, Fiberlaser cutting is also generally used in the mining industry for repair and maintenance of mining equipment and machinery. This can include cutting and shaping of replacement parts for damaged or worn-out parts.

All in all, due to the high precision and speed of fiber laser cutting, it can significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of mining and has shown to be a great asset in this industry.

Fiber laser cutting in the automotive industry

Fiber laser cutting technology and automation in general is increasingly being applied in the automotive industry to cut and shape a diversity of conductive materials. In the automotive industry fiberlaser cutting machines have been known to be used for a variety of processes.

When it comes to the profile cutting of certain automotive parts, fiber laser cutting is well suited for cutting and bevel cutting for an array of metals.  Fiberlaser cutting in the automotive industry is also used for the cutting of body panels, frames catalytical converters and many more. This cutting process with the MicroStep Fiberlaser would include 2D and 3D cutting of steel plates, rectangular and square sections and pipes.

Due to the high precision and speed of fiber laser cutting, it can significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of automotive manufacturing and assembly processes. Additionally, fiber laser cutting can also provide cost savings by reducing material waste, increasing the precision and accuracy of cuts, and allowing for greater flexibility in design and production. Generally saving time and money and achieving exceptional quality standards throughout.

The flexibility of the fiber cable allows for the use of robotic cutting and welding solutions. This feature has greatly enhanced the productivity in these factories and has allowed for much better workability when designing parts that are used within the automotive industry.

What can you cut with a Fiberlaser?

Fiber laser can cut numerous conductive materials, such as copper, gold, stainless steel, mild steel, titanium, tool steel and spring steel. Let us look at the various materials and how they are used in the industry.

This is what makes the fiber laser so versatile, which shows advantage towards other cutting technologies that either cannot cut these materials or cut them at a much slower rate with less accuracy.

  • Metals such as steel, stainless steel, aluminium, brass, and copper are often cut on a fiber laser due to the ability of the high-power density of the laser beam that allows for cutting through a greater array of materials and with high precision and accuracy.
  • Since fiber laser is able to cut precious metals such as gold and titanium, this technology is used extensively in the manufacturing of jewellery when it comes to cutting and welding of these items.
  • Due to its localized heat with welding, fiber laser technology is also used within the electronics, dental and medical and aerospace industries for welding and cutting of very small precision items.
  • In the medical industry stent manufacturing is also performed by high precision fiber laser cutting machines.
  • In the adaptive manufacturing, fiber laser are also used when metal printing has to be done of high value products or parts for the aeronautical, medical and military market.

Although the fiber laser can cut many conductive materials, it cannot cut all materials, for example, materials that have poor reflectivity or are transparent which can cause problems for the cutting process. This is why it is important to evaluate the material to be cuts before committing to the purchase of a rather expensive system.

In conclusion here are the ultimate benefits of fiber laser cutting

Fiber laser cutting allows a great level of precision and accuracy, which is crucial to the operations that depend upon highly accurate tolerances. The MicroStep fiberlaser cutting solution allows for cutting complicated shapes and patterns onto flat sheet, square and rectangular sections, and pipes and this can be done continually and consistently with the highest precision and repeatability. The high-power density of the laser beam and the ability to focus it on a small area allows for quicker cutting speeds on thinner gauge material, than compared to CO2 Fiber lasers. The increased cutting speed ensures that there is lower heat transfer during the entire process as opposed to older cutting technologies. The cutting diameter of the beam is also less, and this ensures for minimal scrap and material waste.

Fiber lasers are solid state and there are therefore no moving parts that require maintenance, and no mirrors need to be aligned. Much less special tooling is required when maintaining fiber lasers and therefore the downtime on scheduled or non-scheduled services is reduced drastically. This also increases the reliability of the MicroStep solution and makes it relatively maintenance free.

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Main Office: Unit B1B & Warehouse C1, Isando Business Park, Cnr Hulley and Gewel Street, Isando, 1601.

Office: 011 397 6356
Ludwig Oellermann: +27 (0) 83 463 0999
Email: info@microstepsa.co.za