Laser FAQs

We would like you to use this page as a resource for answering the questions you have about Lasers.

You can look through the questions listed to learn more about laser technology. Alternatively, if you don't have time to browse, use the Search facility below to look through our frequently asked questions quickly and find the answer to your laser queries.

If you cannot find the answer you require use the advert on the right and submit your question to our panel of experts.

  • What is a laser?
  • LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It is basically a single colour beam of light in the infrared, visible or ultraviolet. The light is used in materials processing for supplying heat energy.

    A laser for industrial materials processing is a 'black box' out of which a powerful beam of light emerges (usually invisible infrared or ultraviolet light is used for materials processing). This light, when focused, provides an intense source of power for cutting welding, marking, drilling etc. and is a key technology for the manufacture of world-class products.

  • What is a laser processing machine?
  • A laser processing machine is one that utilises a powerful laser beam (appropriate sources of such beams are termed 'industrial lasers') to process a material eg to cut, weld, heat treat, mark. To achieve this, the laser beam generally has to be focused.

    The laser processing machine generally comprises the laser source, workpiece handling equipment, laser generated fume removal , guarding for the laser, mechanical and other hazards and a control system to integrate the operation of the different components.
  • What materials are suitable for cutting by laser?
  • Rofin-Baasel
    Most types of steel, mild and stainless, titanium, aluminium, molybdenum, thin copper and brass. Not good with gold silver etc. Most plastics can be cut, but results greatly depends on plastic type. Take care of fume, especially when cutting plastics. PVC produces very dangerous fume, so should not be cut with laser. If in doubt, consult the laser system manufacturer who should be able to let you have more details. Or contact safety organisations (like Pro-laser) who will give you more data.

    Micrometric Techniques
    Most materials can be laser cut but some jobs are more economically done by other means. Advise on the laser cutting of particular materials can be had by asking the Real Laser Experts on the AILU web-site. Please include as much detail as possible about the material and the application.
  • What can laser cutting of flat sheet metal achieve in terms of materials, speeds and quality?
  • Coventry University:
    Speeds ranging between 0.5-10 m/min for typical range of materials and thicknesses, but they are also highly system dependant.
  • What can laser cutting of non-metal sheets achieve in terms of materials, speeds and quality for flat sheet metal?
  • Coventry University:
    Speeds ranging between 0.5-10 m/min for typical range of materials and thicknesses, but they are also highly system dependant.
  • What are the safety issues relating to Nd:YAG laser use?
  • Rofin-Baasel
    Beam, high voltage, machine entrapment, fume.
  • What are the safety issues relating to CO2 laser machine use?
  • CO2 lasers are potentially dangerous, however a properly designed industrial CO2 laser cutting machine should provide no more hazard in normal operation than a class one laser (e.g. an office laser printer, or CD player). This is achieved by correct guarding and interlocks which must be supplied by the manufacturer in order to comply to safety regulations.
    When maintenance is carried out the laser hazard is potentially greater. It is imperative, therefore, that only properly trained maintenance personnel should work on the machine.
    By-products of laser cutting are often harmful, the machine needs to be fitted with an extraction filtration system
    Great care must be taken when cutting plastics, as some of these produce carcinogens or other dangerous gases when thermally cut. The work force must be isolated from these by an adequate extraction system.
    A training package containing all aspects of safety should be undertaken with all laser machine purchases. This training should be available on an ongoing basis.
  • What software is available for optimising laser materials processing?
  • Rofin-Baasel
    Should be available from the system manufacturer in terms of look-up tables etc. Third party software is also available (see AILU membership list) which can help with scheduling etc.
  • What safety features should I be looking for in laser medical equipment?
  • We have no on-line answer to give you at the present time. Please ask your specific question to the 'Real Laser Expert'.
  • What are the benefits and limitations of laser drilling?
  • Oxford Lasers
    For the CVL then the benefits of micro-drilling with it compared to competing technologies (wire EDM, other lasers, chemical etching and micro-drills) are higher through-put than wire EDM, other lasers and micro-drills, faster set-up time than wire EDM and chemical etching and superior hole quality compared to other lasers. The limitations of the CVL are a minimum hole diameter of 1 micron and maximum substrate thickness of 2mm. Drill rates depend upon hole diameter, depth and tolerance and are typically in the range of 0.1 Ð 30 seconds.

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