Are you looking for the best or top laser cutting systems? Well you have come to the right place. This ultimate laser cutting guide will hopefully give you a ton of insight into laser engraving/ laser cutting systems and will give you tips on how to choose and get the best laser cutting system.
Here’s how the guide will be split up:
1. What is laser cutting?
2. What laser cutting equipment should you get?
3. How to outsource your laser cutting
First off, what is laser cutting?
Laser cutting is where you use a laser to cut, etch or engrave something. It is typically seen in the manufacturing industry, but have been seen used in other industries, such as the jewelry and trophy industries as well as a lot for vinyl cutting and laser cutting fabric.
The benefits over regular routing with a drill piece is that a laser will provide a high quality surface finish (due to no wear on the laser compared to the cutting edge of a drill piece). This is important with vinyl cutting. Lasers can also be used to make complicated shapes and can be used to laser cut/ etch things both large and small.
There are three main lasing materials which are CO2, Nd and Nd-YAG. Each has its own application:
CO2 – Used more for boring, cutting, etching and engraving
Nd – Used a lot for boring due to its high-energy pulses and low repetition speed
Nd-YAG – Used for boring, engraving and trimming and has higher energy pulses than Nd lasing.
What laser cutting equipment should you get?
Well that depends on your usage and budget parameters. There are three types of machines:
1. Moving Material systems – stationary cutting head (the material below moves instead)
2. Hybrid systems – both the cutting head and the table move
3. Flying Optics systems – stationary table, but a moving cutting head
So you will see that each machine works in a slightly different way, with some being more appropriate than others. You need to figure out exactly what you will need and what will best suit your design needs.
Remember that on top of purchasing the machine, you will need things like a good cad and cam program. You will also need training in using the laser metal cutting machine and the appropriate cam software.
Software such as AutoCAD, MasterCAM or SolidWorks does not come cheap and can cost upwards of 5 figures easy just for a licence or seat for any of these cad/cam programs. You will also have to factor in maintenance on the machine and software updates, then it all starts getting costly.
So another option you could look at, and one that I recommend for the more one off job is to outsource the laser cut project.
How to outsource your laser cutting
Outsourcing your laser cutting is a great idea and as discussed before, laser cutting systems can be expensive. For jobs like paper laser cutting or plastic laser cutting, then a great option is to outsource. While this may be daunting, if you follow some of the tips below, you should be fine.
1. Communicate clearly. Make sure you have the right cad file set up and to the right scale. Also make sure you have the right layers for AutoCAD or other cad programs sorted. Some cnc laser companies require certain things to be in certain layers. Call ahead to determine how they want your cad file to be set up.
2. Make sure you have the final delivery date sorted in advance. You will need to get in early to avoid long lead times and production times.
3. Discuss surface finish. I have had a few disasters where I did not get the finish of the product down in writing. Make sure you know exactly what you will be getting and get it down in writing.
While a cnc technician or company may have done a great job in the past with their examples, a lot of the time, your project is different. Because your project is different, it will always present some sort of new challenge, which they can use as an excuse to not provide the finish you will be looking for.
4. Always check in periodically or split the task up into smaller chunks. That way a contractor may only stuff up a small piece of your lasers cutting project as opposed to doing a lot of damage if left unsupervised for the first time. Regular reporting and quality assurance is key to a great project.
Another option is to do the diy laser cutter route to save money. There are many guides online for this, but unfortunately I can not help you out on this particular topic. You should be able to build a quality laser wood cutting machine or etching machine with the right plans and most importantly, the right amount of time.
What is the best cnc laser cutting machine?
Laser cutting machines or have their advantages and disadvantages. If you are not outsourcing and really want to get a good machine, check out some of the machines below:
The above are slightly smaller machines, but are a good start. For larger, more industrial cnc machines, be sure to check out some of the more well known laser cutting systems brands, such as Epilog, Kern and Universal laser systems. Good luck!