Laser cutting produces part shapes by cutting sheet material using an intense laser beam. In CNC laser cutting a beam of high-density light energy is focused through a tiny hole in a nozzle. When this beam strikes the surface of the work piece, the material of the work piece is vaporized. CNC laser cutting offers low cost for prototype and short runs since no physical tooling is needed. Heat distortion is minimal and typically limited to about 10% of material thickness. Laser cut parts generally remain flat. One notable advantage is that the CNC laser cutting process yields minimal burrs.
Laser cutting can produce almost any 2D shape including shaped cutouts. Laser cutting can produce parts such as enclosures, cams, brackets, sculptures, holders, mechanisms, etc. CNC laser cutting can be applied to several types of materials. Aluminum can be laser cut but requires a higher power more expensive laser. Stainless steel, plain steel and spring steel are highly suitable for laser cutting. Acrylic is an excellent material for laser cutting and results in a near polished edge. Laser cutting Metals such as copper alloys are difficult due to their ability to reflect the laser light and absorb heat. Laser cutting many plastics are problematic due to toxic fumes.
CNC LASER CUTTING DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Minimize holes and cutouts.
- Rounded corners are slightly preferable.
- Edges may not be as smooth as milling or punching.
- Edge quality is usually better for thinner materials.
- Some spots along the edge, such as where the cut ends may be less smooth when laser cut.
- Sharp inside corners of the part may have a slight rounding due to beam radius of approximately 0.02 – 0.04″.
- Edge burrs are usually minimal and deburring of edges is usually not necessary but should be considered for a smoother edge.
- Thin flimsy structures, such as shapes where a high percent of material is removed and long slots may experience some warping.