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Fiber Laser Sheet Metal Cutting

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Traditionally companies engaged in sheet metal cutting have used high-powered CO2 laser systems to do the cutting. A growing relative newcomer in that sector though is the Fiber Laser System (FLS) which is becoming more and more popular around the world. Companies, particularly smaller ones, found that the older CO2 cutters were using too much electricity so there was an obvious cost element to the decision to switch to FLS.

The precision metal cutting industry has always been very competitive and it is essential to keep down costs along with increasing output by making significant reductions in turnaround times. Information recently supplied by Wisconsin Metal Parts Inc bears out the fact that FLS is definitely the way ahead in this manufacturing process. The cutting accuracy is incredible and can be as tight as 0.002 in. It naturally follows then that wastage rates are very low. 

Precision tooling and the cutting of small, intricate pieces are well suited to this system. On the other hand it is perfectly adept when it comes to larger items like automation equipment, marine parts and in the aerospace sector. It is equally at home cutting such metals as stainless steel copper and brass. The accuracy is comparable whatever material is used.

The speed at which FLS operates is a significant factor for companies concerned with rapid turnover allied to accurate cutting. The system has a compact cutting head which is easily integrated into motion systems. The complexity of large cutting tables is thus reduced with lighter components able to be moved at higher speeds. Multi-mirror alignment procedures are not necessary and the beam path is sealed to the cutting point, essentially because the beam itself is contained within the fiber.

It is reported that fiber lasers can be 3 fold quicker in terms of speed than other systems like C02รข€™s for eg. There are clear benefits to this, including much lower maintenance costs and, of course, highly efficient and accurate operation. Significant reductions in the use of wall socket power provide major savings in electricity costs. Maintenance costs are much lower as the longer life of pumping diodes allied to extended mean-time between servicing intervals make this laser highly suitable for use in smaller metal cutting shops.
Fiber lasers are certainly making an impact in the laser cutting market. Over 50,000 high-powered CO2 units have been installed worldwide since 1980 with healthy annual sales of up to 4000 reported. That is a lot of units that are under threat from FLS and companies are starting to see the benefits in making the change. Additionally though newer, entry-level users will see fiber lasers as the obvious choice because of all the cost benefits outlined above. These companies might not have shown any interest in purchasing a more expensive to run CO2 unit and will see this newer cutter on the block as a very attractive proposition indeed. Either way FLS is causing major disruption in the flat sheet cutter market right now, and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Uses for these laser include various CNC machined parts, sheet fabricating of such metals, metal stamping production and much more.

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