What is a Laser?
Using lasers seemed pretty fantastic when they made their appearance in the Star Wars Saga, but in a real sense lasers are just as natural a part of daily life as the air we breathe. To illustrate we offer a rudimentary explanation about the nature of lasers. Atoms, which everything is composed of, are constantly in motion, depending on how excited they are. By applying heat, electricity or light to an atom, one can increase the degree of excitation of that atom.
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Everything in the universe is made up of atoms. Atoms are constantly in motion, but can be in different states of excitation. If a lot of energy is applied to an atom, it can leave what is called the ground-state energy level and go to an excited level. The level of excitation depends on the amount of energy that is applied to the atom via heat, light, or electricity. After an electron (a component of atoms) moves to a higher-energy level, it returns to a ground state, releasing its energy as a particle of light (or photon). Lasers are devices that control the way these energized atoms release photons. The word “laser" stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”.
How do laser cutters work?
Industrial laser cutting involves focusing high amounts of energy on a localized, small and well-defined spot. The heat energy produced vaporizes materials in the area.
Advantages of Laser Cutting Over Mechanical and Plasma Cutting
- Easier work handling and reduced contamination of work area
- Potentially improved precision
- Reduced warping
- Requires less energy when for sheet metal (than plasma)
Disadvantage of Laser Cutting Over Mechanical and Plasma Cutting
- High power consumption
- Most industrial lasers cannot cut greater metal thickness (the way plasma can)
- The capital cost of laser cutting machines that approach plasma cutting machines’ thick metal capabilities, is much higher