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How Do Lasers Cut?

A laser is a high intensity beam of light than can be strong enough to cut through different materials.  When the intensity and focal points of the lasers are restricted to certain preferences, they can be used in process called laser cutting. Laser cutting is typically used for manufacturing applications, but has gained traction amongst hobbyists and students who wish to design materials with lasers.

How it works.

Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high power laser through optics.  A computer numerical control is used to direct both the material, and the laser being generated in order to design a shape.  The laser beam is focused at the material, (which could be wood, metal, plastic, or even paper) and burns, melts, or vaporizes it away. A jet of gas works simultaneously to blow away unwanted scraps from the process, which leaves a high quality finish to the product.  Laser cutters can have humble applications, such as designing a toy or craft, or they can be used in industrial scenarios.   

Lasers are generated as a result of stimulation of laser material by electrical discharges or lamps within a closed vessel. When the laser material is stimulated, a particle mirror reflects the beam internally until it is has gained enough energy to escape the container as a monochromatic stream of coherent light.  The light is guided by a set of mirrors and fiber optics to a lens, which focuses the light at the work zone.  The beam is relatively small in both diameter and circumference. Widths as small as 0.0004 inches are achievable. The laser then makes the initial cut by sending out a single high-powered pulse, which makes a small hole in the material. A pierce is typically done before every cut when starting from somewhere else than an edge.  

When cutting contours, the laser is focused and intensified by a mirror so that it appears as a very small dot, about 1.5-2.0 mm in diameter.  This helps to ensure that the cuts are smooth and accurate.  Then, the direction beam of polarization is rotated, as it moves around the contours of the work piece.  

There are many advantages to laser cutting because of the ability to shift the diameter width to a specific number.  Precision is better and contamination of the workspace is limited.  Additionally, the laser doesn’t wear in during manufacturing process, which adds to the benefits of the system.

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