Laser cutting machines have become fairly common in fabricating and manufacturing environments. Like welders, press brakes and even simple hand tools, they’re a necessity for any successful metal fabricating business.
Despite their commonality, however, they still have the power to captivate an audience. Even for the shop owners that leverage them on a daily basis, they easily invoke a certain degree of nostalgia. Watching a laser slice through steel can conjure up memories of just about any gun-wielding sci-fi movie character.
At the heart of the always-impressive laser operation is the laser cutting head, which harnesses the extreme power of the cutting beam. It’s here that users – and OEMs – focus much of their attention and awe.
Cutting head characteristics
One of the many benefits of fiber laser technology is the direct path that the laser beam takes to the cutting head. Because the beam travels through an optical cable as opposed to a gas-filled tube, the chances for contamination and diffraction are low. Therefore, when the beam meets the nozzle, the quality and power level have not been compromised.
To support the high-quality, high-power beam, a laser cutting head needs to be robust. Power levels have been pushing into the double digits in recent years; 10-kW and 12-kW laser cutting equipment is shaping up to be more of a regularity than an anomaly. To handle the full range of power levels, the cutting head needs to be designed with a few key characteristics in mind.
First and foremost, the cutting head must be made of materials that can withstand the high power and the high temperatures emitted by the laser beam. Therefore, heads are typically made of aluminum and steel, with certain components made out of ceramic materials and other high-temperature-resistant materials.
Another demand of the cutting head is to ensure that the laser beam being emitted has not been contaminated by particles in the air. Although the optical cable protects the fiber laser beam from contamination, the cutting head still needs to have a fully sealed design. This helps protect the beam as well as the collimator and focusing lenses, which in turn, reduces the need for internal maintenance.
Other characteristics of the laser head include an autofocus capability for ease of use, lightweight design to achieve fast traverse speeds and a modular design to deal with the potential for part collision.
Beyond the physical makeup of the laser cutting head, another factor to take into consideration when vetting laser cutting equipment manufacturers is the source of the design. When a cutting head is designed and produced in-house by the laser OEM, customers benefit. Luca Croce, technical sales support at Cy-Laser, explains.
“In the case of the Cy-Laser head, it was specifically developed for the fiber laser source we provide in our equipment,” he says. “Every part, every parameter and every decision that came into play when building it came from the requirements of the type of laser light our various machines emit.”
A description of the Cy-Laser head includes the hallmarks of a robust laser cutting head, such as its motorized single-focus lens that can be customized to specific production requirements, a 100-percent sealed enclosure that remains sealed even during maintenance activities as well as an integrated cooling circuit.
The CY2D S3015 is available in various kilowatt versions and utilizes the company’s in-house designed laser cutting head.
The laser cutting head also comes equipped with an anti-collision system, a process monitor to control the status of the optics and stop the process in the rare case of contamination, and the company’s CyServo for quick and clean piercing.
Also ensuring clean cuts is Cy-Laser’s cross-jet for the removal of piercing spatter. Automatic nozzle cleaning, the capability for quick assist gas changeover and compressed air cutting options round out the overall design. All of this translates into the longest uptime in the industry, says Croce.
Cy-Laser’s official corporate video tells the story of a company that pioneered the industrial application of fiber laser sources.
Croce says that the beauty of the Cy-Laser design can also be seen through its flexibility. The company developed one cutting head that can be used across all of its laser cutting machines, regardless of the power level or operation. Whether it’s for laser cutting or welding from 2 kW up to 10 kW, the cutting head can stand up to any power level and can also be adapted to customer needs. Adapting to customer needs is key.
“Because the production of the cutting head takes place in-house, we have the knowledge to adapt to every kind of change that the marketplace presents us with,” Croce says. “And that’s not just in regard to the power source, it’s also how we’ve optimized our different machines according to the needs of the customer, including the speed of the cut and the type and thickness of the material that needs to be cut. Because the laser head is made by us, we can make modifications to it depending on a user’s needs. It makes it easier to adapt to changing needs.”
Watch Cy-Laser’s proprietary laser cutting head in action.
Croce gives the example of a customer who initially needs to cut mostly thick materials. He says that Cy-Laser’s laser cutting head can be optimized to handle those thicker materials. But, if the customer later realizes a need to cut faster on thinner, lighter gauge materials, the engineers at Cy-Laser can optimize the cutting head for these new demands by changing its parameters or configurations.
“We can adapt or modify, in a cost-effective way, an older machine to handle the new work a customer now needs to do,” he says. “A customer could need to increase the power level of their machine to improve the speed of their cutting or to cut different materials. Because we developed the cutting head, we have an intimate understanding of how the light is managed, depending on the job at hand. Through the head, we can transform the light into the correct cutting beam.”
One of the most important elements of the laser operation is the laser cutting head, which must harness the extreme power of the cutting beam.
Italian-based, Cy-Laser has been producing fiber laser cutting equipment since 2004 and special welding equipment since the 1980s. Since the company’s inception, it has also been producing its own laser cutting heads. With a range of equipment, the engineers agree that a universal cutting head best serves the ever-changing needs of the company’s customers.
Currently, the company produces eight laser cutting machine models as well as a laser tube cutting machine. With multiple power levels and table sizes available, customers are afforded more than 40 different possible configurations. Cy-Laser also produces custom laser welding systems and specializes in stainless steel “pillow” welds especially suited for heat transfer applications.
The company produces eight laser cutting machine models in as many as 40 different configurations.
With the mantra that “the light of tomorrow travels through fiber,” Cy-Laser will continue to focus on research and development to further optimize its offerings. In doing so, the company will continue to captivate the attention of current and potential customers alike.