Considering a fibre laser to replace a CO2? We’ve put together a list of reasons why you might consider the fibre for your business.
Fibre Laser vs CO2 – What’s the difference between the two?
A common question asked is what is the difference between a fibre Laser and a CO2 Laser. The key differences between the two is the wavelength of the laser, and the delivery method of the laser.
Fibre lasers are typically operating on a wavelength of 1,060 nm, whereas CO2 lasers are usually in the 10,600 nm range. This difference affects what materials the laser beam can cut or engrave. CO2 lasers are more suited to organic materials, wood, cardboard, textiles etc.
Fibre is ideal for sheet metal, such as mild or stainless steel. It’s also especially effective at cutting highly reflective materials, such as copper, brass or aluminium. CO2 lasers are unable to cut copper or brass. You can cut Aluminium with CO2, but with one major caveat. The majority of the beam reflects back into the optic components of the laser, which will heavily impact consumables durability and lifetime.
The other way in which they differ, is the actual technology involved in delivering the laser to the material. CO2 tube lasers utilise a combination of gas and mirrors to bounce the laser down to the material. Fibre Lasers, as the name implies, utilise a fibre optic cable instead.
As with any new technology, fibre lasers were initially quite a bit more expensive than their CO2 counterparts. However, as the technology has developed, the costs have decreased. Fibre lasers are now practically on a par in terms of purchase cost. More importantly, the ongoing costs of a CO2 laser makes fibre more cost-effective in the long run too.
There’s never been a more important time to finance business purchases, as cash flow is now of upmost importance during the global pandemic. Finance is attainable for any business regardless of its age, size or credit rating and the decision typically take around 24-48 hours. With finance, you can spread the cost across a variety of time periods for full flexibility.
The government’s super-deduction tax relief incentive makes now the perfect time to invest in capital machinery. Companies can claim 130% capital allowances on qualifying plant and machinery investments for expenditure incurred between 1st April 2021 and the end of March 2023.
Under the super-deduction, in effect, for every £100 you spend, you can receive a £24.70 Corporation Tax relief. This is available on all capital machinery.
This change makes the UK’s capital allowance regime more internationally competitive. It’s lifting the net present value of our plant and machinery allowances from 30th in the OECD to 1st. For more information and details, see here.
Fibre lasers are ideal for cutting thin gauge material quickly, whereas CO2 is a lot slower in comparison. The difference in wavelengths means that the spot size of the fibre laser is up to 90% smaller than CO2. Because the material will absorb more of the beam’s energy (rather than reflect it), fibre lasers can cut faster and more precisely than their CO2 counterparts.
On thin gauge, fibre is twice or even three times as fast as a comparative CO2 laser would be. With faster cutting you can increase your workload capacity, and keep your employees working efficiently too. The obvious benefit of this is that the faster you can cut material, the cheaper the per-item cost of your cut pieces.
Thicker materials are generally faster too with a fibre laser. CO2 lasers often need to do a second pass to complete a cut through thick steel. The assist gas from the CO2 laser becomes trapped, creating a bubble around the cutting head.
The final time saving aspect of a fibre laser is they are ready to go instantly. There is no warm-up time due to the technology in use. CO2 lasers typically take 10-20 minutes to be operational.
CO2 works by reflecting the laser beam to the cutting surface with a mixture of mirrors and gases. The mirrors on a CO2 laser are extremely sensitive and highly vulnerable to dirt/dust particles meaning they are easily destroyed and often need replacing. Each time this occurs it comes at a hefty cost of several thousand pounds to the customer. Mirror and lens cleaning, beam realignment and ongoing maintenance are all needed on CO2 lasers. Whereas with fibre, there is simply a fibre optic cable routing the laser to the cutting surface. This heavily reduces maintenance, and subsequently costs.
Less maintenance and downtime means more efficiency and cost savings.
Ongoing cost savings
CO2 lasers use up a lot of energy to keep them running. Fibre is far more energy efficient than a CO2 laser, typically 2-3 times more efficient, drastically cutting down your energy consumption. CO2 lasers also utilise helium gas, which is becoming increasingly more expensive.
Swapping a CO2 to a fibre laser will therefore reduce your energy, and gas consumption. This will further reduce your per/part costs, and is also more environmentally friendly too.
Fibre lasers take up less physical space than their CO2 equivalents, a highly underrated benefit. A smaller machine frees up workshop space. Extra space allows staff to move around more easily, or more space for storing material.
It could even allow you to further improve efficiencies by bringing in additional equipment. Typically, the cross-sectional area of a CO2 laser being approximately 3 or even 4 times larger than the equivalent fibre laser.
Published 23rd June 2021