Laser cutting is mainly used for flat cutting of sheet steel, aluminum or any other type of material. This cutting process generally uses CO2 laser sources or fiber laser sources. CO2 lasers are systematically used on machines with Cartesian axes of the X, Y, Z type (comparable to a conventional machine tool).
The wavelength emitted by CO2 lasers is 10.6 µm. The power of CO2 laser can reach several kilowatts which allows cuts with clean edges but thermally very affected. These low cost sources, however, have a very poor energy efficiency since it is less than 10%. In addition, their maintenance is frequent and generates a significant additional cost.
With a shorter wavelength at 1.07 µm, fiber lasers are easier to integrate into a laser machine. They are increasingly seen as an alternative to CO2 lasers because of their better performance and ease of integration. Fiber lasers can thus be mounted on a robot allowing a multitude of cutting configurations. In addition to an efficiency of around 25% and a reduced need for maintenance, the fiber laser limits heat-affected areas.
Depending on the type of materials, the cutting precision and the size of the part, it is possible to use other laser sources with characteristics better suited to the required applications (medical, watchmaking, semiconductor, electronics, etc.). Sources with very short pulse durations of the order of a femto second are used for very fine cuts and do not generate a thermal affect zone so as not to degrade the properties of the part at the level of the cutting zone .