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Lower-Cost Laser Systems

May 2013

With the advent of less expensive components for building CNC equipment along with more reasonably priced resonators to build a CO2 or fiber laser, these systems have fallen in price.

Often a company might look at a used laser to enter this field where now they can afford a new bare-bones ones.

Todd Jacobson, owner of Laser Maintenance Group Corp., mentions that “the cost of a good used laser is really based on what fabricators want to cut. If they just cut mild steel that’s 10 gauge to 0.250-in. in thickness, they could buy a used 2kW watt laser for around $80,000 and cut just about as fast as a 4kW laser at a much lower operating cost.

“But, if they plan to cut aluminum or stainless with any thickness, the higher the power the better. However, now we’re talking about 4kW laser that’s around $200,000 to $250,000 used,” he says.

Today, with used lasers in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range, it just might make more sense to look at new equipment. As with purchasing anything used, you never really know what you’re getting, while a new piece of equipment always has a warranty and factory support. Therefore, at a certain price level, new will always trump used. So, what’s available in this low-cost category?

IPG

“One of the main reasons that IPG is offering a full laser cutting system is because our CEO knows it will fill a void our customers now have,” says Mike Klos, general manager. IPG is noted for supplying fiber-laser resonators to OEMs.

“The second primary reason is that we get some customers that say, ‘We absolutely love your laser, but we have no idea on how to integrate it into a small laser cutting system. We don’t know any integrators, and we don’t like dealing with separate sources, because if the integrator doesn’t do a good job, he’s going to point to you.’ Therefore, we wanted to offer a complete system.”

However, Klos notes that they don’t compete with integrators or other OEM-laser-system builders. “Right now, because of our laser prices being so low, we decided to build our own niche system,” remarks Klos. “It also makes sense to offer it with full service capability, which makes us totally responsible for the entire laser system.”

IPG is offering only a small 4-ft. by 4-ft. table size with a low-power laser for its system.

“We talked to the system manufacturers that use our equipment before we developed our own, and they said that our system was fine with them.

“The unit we showed at Fabtech 2012 was a 700W machine. We can also put a 1kW power source on it. It uses linear motors, but we’ll also offer a less expensive rack and pinion option.

“This laser system is meant for very thin material cutting. This is done with a 1kW power source intended for material that is 0.25 in. and thinner. We are shooting for a complete system at around $250,000.”

System specifications include: 25 mm Z-axis vertical travel, linear motor driven ballscrew, linear accuracy of ± 50 μm, linear repeatability of ± 20 μm, up to 2 g acceleration and a maximum cutting velocity of up to 2.0 M/s.

Options include: material pallet changer, rotary axis for tube cutting, galvo marking head, vision system for alignment and inspection, material removal, 4th and 5th axis, manual or automatic door and a tooling pallet changer to adapt to multiple part cutting, welding or marking.

Advanced Kiffer Systems, Inc./Hypertherm

Hypertherm’s fiber laser is used by Advanced Kiffer Systems, Inc. (AKS). The company offers a complete cutting system for $449,000 for its 1.5kW laser, $495,000 for the 2kW and $570,000 for the 3kW.

All units use a 5 ft. by 10 ft. effective cutting area with a dual-pallet table. This allows the laser to be cutting inside the class-IV safety enclosure while an operator loads or unloads the other pallet for greater productivity. All units carry a full two-year warranty.

Hypertherm’s fiber-optic technology enables a more flexible table integration without table size restrictions associated with CO2 lasers, mentions Stan Pollack, regional sales manager at Kiffer Industries Inc.

The AKS Hypertherm HyIntensity Fiber Laser System is three times more energy efficient than a CO2 resonator and is a more cost-effective solution for fine-featured cutting with no mirrors to maintain and calibrate and no lasing gas.

The system also offers: precision ground and polished, helical rack-and-pinion drives with dual-brushless AC servos, a scrap conveyor for automatic refuse removal, a class-one safety enclosure with electrical safety interlocks on all access doors, large viewing windows with special laser safety glass, a lighted interior, a laser head console with point-of-use-process and diagnostic information, Hypertherm’s built-in anti-collision protection, and an auto-gas selection console that enables consistent cut quality.

Mazak

Mazak Optonics also offers a low-cost laser that’s less than $400,000, depending on options. It’s the company’s SUPER TURBO-X Champion with an available 2.5kW resonator. Along with the new Type-10 resonator, the STX Champion delivers a combination of economy, rugged construction and performance not found in lighter weight designs, mentions the company.

It’s built on Mazak’s rigid, hybrid platform for accuracy and durability. It offers many benefits including a 1,786 pound workpiece capacity for sheets up to 0.87 in. thick, high positioning accuracy, improved machine travel support and easy loading access.

It’s equipped with a MAZATROL PREVIEW full-function control that automatically determines the cutting speed and acceleration from each cutting point to the next and uses integrated technology tables for a wide range of materials and thicknesses.

Mazak’s STX Champion also has standard features to increase throughput and ROI. They include: Mazak’s cutting-edge, Type-10 resonator with ECO mode, a power conveyor to reduce required floor space and three pneumatic-workpiece clamps to help position and secure full sheets and remnants during cutting.

In addition to these standard features, it also offers: +/- 0.0004 in. positioning accuracy over 19.7 in., two bed sizes: 5 ft. by 10 ft. and 4 ft. by 8 ft., a gantry-head construction that provides better support across the entire machine travel and the ability to cut up to 0.8-in.-thick mild steel.

Cincinnati Inc.

To help compete in the entry level or the more price sensitive market for lasers, Cincinnati Inc. has introduced a 4kW CO2 laser called the CL-400 Series that’s about $499,000 well equipped.

“These units have linear-drive motors with a 5 ft. by 10 ft. bed and a dual-pallet shuttle with an optional, modular material handling system to reduce beam-off time and further boost productivity,” says Matt Garbarino, marketing manager.

“They will also have a touch-screen PC-based controller and offer our breakaway laser head, which is magnetically coupled. If it hits a part, it will just break off and can easily be snapped back on without any damage. This unit will also feature a low-maintenance, PRC laser resonator.

The CL-400 delivers fast positioning speeds of 12,000 ipm and up to 1 in. processing range on mild steel.

The new laser cutting system features a low-maintenance 4kW resonator, providing all-around material versatility and cutting precision. “We’ve selected a highly reliable, clean running CO2 resonator for the new system,” said Todd Kirchoff, product manager for Cincinnati. “We’ve also made significant investments in our operations to improve our flow and productivity. As a result, we’re able to offer the CL-400 at a lower price point, while loading it up with features found on our more advanced systems. This gives customers another choice in determining the right laser cutting system to fit their performance needs and budgets.”

The CL-400’s fourth-generation linear motor drives deliver dynamic positioning accuracy of +/- 0.001 in. at high cutting speeds. The machine’s heavy 0.75 in. to 1.5 in. steel-plate frame provides durability, stability and enhanced accuracy.

The resonator features a low-speed, oil-free turbine designed specifically for laser use and a gas filtration module that continuously purifies the gases flowing through the resonator. The resonator uses simple, industrial grade, non-specialized laser gases.

The laser’s programming and nesting software increases productivity and optimizes material usage by selecting the best size sheet for a parts nest. The software automatically performs sequencing, process optimization and feature avoidance, allowing the machine to run head-down without risk of crashing into tipped up slugs.

LVD Strippit

LVD Strippit’s low-cost lasers are priced less than $500,000. These include the company’s Orion 3015 Plus 2.5kW, Orion 3015 Plus 4kW, Orion 4020 Plus 2.5kW, Orion 4020 Plus 4kW and Sirius 3015 2.5kW lasers.

The company’s Orion CO2 Laser Cutting Systems offer cost-efficient processing of a range of materials in sheet sizes up to 60 in. by 120 in. for Orion 3015 Plus and 80 in. by 160 in. for the Orion 4020 Plus.

The compact, hybrid-style Orion is engineered for efficiency and ease of use, it combines quick set-up and features such as automatic cutting gas selection, focal positioning and cutting gas pressure control with servo valve to provide consistent accuracy and high productivity.

Orion 3015 Plus and Orion 4020 Plus use the Fanuc RF excited fast-axial-flow CO2 laser. The laser, CNC control, drives and motors are fully integrated, providing superior processing speed, high reliability and low operating and maintenance costs, notes the company.

It can be equipped or retrofitted with an automatic load/unload unit or a Compact Tower (CT-L) warehouse system.

LVD/Strippit’s Sirius 3015 Plus Gantry Style Co2 Laser Cutting System offers efficient processing of parts at optimal speeds and accelerations to suit the part geometry, offering reliable cutting performance at an affordable price-performance ratio.

Sirius provides quick and precise positioning and consistently accurate laser processing. The combination of a dynamic machine with an excellent laser beam quality allows high-speed laser cutting. Quick positioning is achieved with axis speeds up to 3939 in./min.

Sirius is designed with a modular construction, permitting the user to select the configuration that works best for the application and budget. As a standard unit, the laser cutting system features 3 m by 1.5 m integrated shuttle tables, which maximize uptime by allowing one table to be loaded while the machine is cutting on the other table. Table change time is a mere 25 seconds.

Knuth

Knuth offers both CO2 and fiber lasers that fit in the low-cost laser category. Prices for the company’s CO2 Laser-Jet 1512 / 2512 Laser Cutting System starts out in the $325,000 range and goes up as to the various options and laser power increases offered.

Knuth’s Laser-Jet offers an extremely small foot-print, excellent cut quality ensured by a high-quality beam and a rigid machine structure along with a compact machine layout for easy feeding of material and cut parts removal. It also offers an application-oriented operating software with integrated technology database for cutting all types of materials. Cutting beam focus is controlled using a capacitive height scanner that ensures high cut quality, notes the company.

It has a low operating cost and long maintenance intervals and offers a remote system diagnostics using a remote control system. It can label cut parts using the same cutter head.

A complete system is offered with PC control, CO2 laser, optics for beam path, high-pressure cutter head, capacitive height sensing, toggle for cutting gas/cutting pressure, support grid for metal cutting, automatically moving guard plate, coolant regeneration, operating manual and programming instructions.

Power for the Laser-Jet 1512 / 2512 Laser Cutting System ranges from 600W to 1.5kW. Overall dimensions range from 112 in. by 119 in. to 152 in. by 119 in.

There are number of options available for these systems. Please review the website for additional information.

Haco-Atlantic

Another manufacturer that offers lower cost lasers for cutting and welding, both CO2 and fiber, is Haco-Atlantic. Haco offers hybrid lasers built by Cutlite Penta with over 1500 installations worldwide for both metal and plastics cutting. Prices for both lasers start out in the $200,000 range and go up reflecting various options and laser power increases.

For its CO2 lasers, the company offers a 2200, 3500, 5000 and 6000 watt laser and 1000 and 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 watt fiber lasers using an IPG laser resonator. Offered bed sizes are 120 in. by 60 in., 160 in. by 80 in. and 240 in. by 80 in. as well as custom sizes. All are available with dual-pallet exchangers and optional storage towers with full automation.

Both lasers offer a fully welded frame and thermally stabilized, cast aluminum moving parts, high efficiency linear motors, high-resolution optical encoders, high-quality optics, automatic piercing systems, adaptive optics, focusing head with capacitive sensor, rapid lens exchange and internet remote diagnostics and repair.

The fiber laser offers many advantages such as relatively low operational cost, less energy consumption, smaller spot size resulting in improved beam quality, much less maintenance over the life of the laser and no need for recurring consumable gas bottles for operation of laser. A much less powerful fiber laser as compared to the CO2 laser will offer the same performance.

The company also offers a CO2 and fiber low-wattage laser for cutting thin sheet, its LT 1513 has a 60 in. by 50 in. bed. It’s extremely compact and designed to give excellent price/performance with high reliability, good edge quality and very narrow kerf width. The fiber laser is also ideal for cutting exotic materials such as copper, brass, aluminum, Inconel and others. Cutting velocity can be faster as a result of the higher absorption coefficient of most metals.

Advanced Kiffer Systems Inc.
Cincinnati Inc.
Haco-Atlantic
Hypertherm
PG
Knuth
Mazak
Strippit, Inc.