Laser Cutter Types-BEST LASER CUTTERS IN 2021
There are various types of laser cutter out there, but for the purposes of this buyer’s guide we’re going to focus on the two most common ones – CO2 and Fiber.
A CO2 laser is the most common type to feature in our buyer’s guide, and that’s for good reason. It’s the most affordable way to get into laser cutting, with prices beginning at around $500 for a CO2 laser cutter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a CO2 laser is generated by sending an electrical current through a glass tube filled with CO2 and other gases. At the end of this airtight glass tube are two mirrors, and the electricity flowing through the tube aggravates the gases, causing them to produce light. The light bounces around some cleverly placed mirrors within the laser cutter before being focused by a lens and exiting the device, hitting the surface of the material you’re working with.
CO2 lasers have upsides and downsides. Positives include a smooth cutting finish and a relatively quick straight line speed (compared to other forms of laser), but they are also pretty sensitive machines. With their combination of mirrors and glass tubing they are quite fragile and need aligning perfectly to function at their best. This results in more expensive upkeep and servicing costs in terms of both time and money. Still, this is balanced by their affordability to begin with.
Fiber lasers are a newer technology in the laser cutting world. On an industrial level, they’re often deployed to cut thin sheets of metal for production components. In desktop form, they’re fairly rare and very expensive machines, but they do have a number of benefits.
For a start, they’re far more electrically efficient than CO2 lasers, meaning they cost less to run in terms of power. They’re also cheaper to maintain, as they have fewer moving parts and are generally of a more stable construction, making them less vulnerable to damage in transport.
In a fiber laser, the laser itself is generated from an optical fiber that has had rare-earth elements (such as erbium, ytterbium or neodymium) added to it. Lasers produced in this method are said to be very stable and easier to focus.
Although fiber lasers are expensive initially, they are far more efficient and stable than their CO2 counterparts, and the servicing and maintenance costs are also said to be dramatically lower. Unfortunately, the price of the technology itself tends to make fiber lasers very difficult to obtain, meaning fiber lasers are few and far between in ours buyer’s guides.