CO2 Laser Cutting vs. Fiber Laser Cutting

CO2-vs-Fiber-Laser-Cutting-1024x512

The rapidly growing science of laser cutting is dominated by two main methods — carbon dioxide (CO2) laser cutting and fiber laser cutting. Both processes offer increased precision and versatility for shops of all sizes. Plus, the technology is continuously evolving toward improved precision, easier use, and greater flexibility.

Like any welding setup, though, the decision tree for finding the right automated laser cutting process starts with an evaluation of both your current applications, needs and limitations, and your long-term vision. The important factors to consider are variables including type and thickness of the material, accuracy, production rate, purchase budget, and operating costs.

CO2 Laser Cutting

CO2 laser cutting works by focusing a high-intensity infrared laser beam through a series of mirrors and out through a nozzle. It was first introduced more than 50 years ago and remains the traditional pillar of the industry. But, even though it’s an older cutting method, several features of the CO2 laser drive its continued popularity for industrial welding and cutting.

Advantages

  • CO2 cutting is best for fine features and acute angles, and typically uses two axes and a moveable table to create the cut.
  • It’s a fast process for materials less than ⅜ inches, but higher-powered machines work quickly on thicker metals, too. And, thanks to improvements in technology, quality, and control, the CO2 laser delivers better cut-edge quality than fiber on thicker surfaces.
  • Predictability is also a beneficial feature of CO2 lasers. Since it has been around for decades now, CO2 laser cutting provides dependable results that you can count on.

Disadvantages

  • A CO2 laser can require an initial investment that’s anywhere from $350,000 to more than $1 million; a price tag that’s largely due to optical mirrors and consumables. From there, operating costs hover at around $20 an hour.
  • Additionally, CO2 laser cutting requires a significant amount of power to run, which drives up its overall operational cost.
  • Manufacturing processes can be easily disrupted because the beam path delivery system requires routine maintenance.

laser cutting lenses recycling program

Fiber Laser Cutting

Fiber laser cutting is a more recent technology and has grown dramatically in popularity. This is partly due to its superior quality when cutting thinner material. In fact, fiber laser sales now outpace those of CO2, but it isn’t a catch-all solution.

Advantages

  • Where CO2 cutting uses a focused light beam, fiber cutting uses a bank of diodes to create the beam, which is then focused through a fiber-optic cable.
  • Cutting speeds are generally much faster with fiber, and the process yields fine cuts with precision quality.
  • A fiber laser setup can be less expensive than CO2, ranging from $200,000 to $600,000.
  • It also has significantly lower operational costs — around $4 per hour — because its solid-state setup doesn’t require the mirrors and other equipment needed for its CO2 counterpart.

However, fiber laser cutting has a few drawbacks.

Disadvantages

  • More intricate jobs may significantly reduce cutting speed.
  • Fiber laser cutting requires specific safety measures to prevent long-term eye damage.
  • With less flexibility than CO2 laser cutting, fiber laser cutting is limited in its application for non-metallic materials.

When it comes down to it, the preferred method of laser cutting depends on the type and thickness of the material you are cutting.

Looking for More Insight?

American Torch Tip offers a wide range of precision laser-cutting parts at affordable prices. View our complete catalog or contact one of our experts for more information.

Sign up for our Monthly Newsletter

Join our community of over 20,000 industry experts and subscribe to our newsletters to receive product announcements and offers.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.