Metal laser professionals know that there’s more than one way to use a laser cutting machine. They also know which gasses work best. Most of them opt to use nitrogen or oxygen, however air assisted laser cutting may be better for them. Its cost efficiency is one of the main reasons to switch, but is it right for you? Here are a few things to consider before making the switch.
How It Works
Fiber laser cutting machines and CO2 lasers don’t rely strictly on the laser to penetrate metal. An assisted gas can be emitted from the laser head nozzle during processing. For many years oxygen was the gas of choice until it was discovered that nitrogen produced a cooler cut which resulted in cleaner edges. Using air is similar to nitrogen especially since air is 80% nitrogen in the first place. Although the two gasses are similar, air provides a slightly higher quality at a lower price. This has fabricators pretty eager to make the switch. You can use fiber laser marking or cutting machines for extremely detailed marking, engraving as well as for deep cutting metal such as brass or copper and of course stainless or soft steel. The Fiber beams kerf is clean and roughly 10x smaller compared to co2.
The Perks of Air Assist
The clean up after nitrogen use with a laser cutter can be a time consuming clean-up effort. When using air as the gas of choice the clean-up part of the job is significantly reduced if not eliminated altogether. Nitrogen prices have gone up 90% and is expected to continue to rise, however air is much cheaper and the prices are fairly stable. Air assist has been developing since 1998 and with the recent improvements of technology air assist is becoming more common within the industry.
When to Use Air
Although air assist is on the rise it is not always the best choice for the product. Air is best used on thinner objects that need to be cut and stainless steel. Nitrogen still provides a quicker cut and a cleaner edge, so if your company is responsible for cutting objects for the food and aerospace industries then it is best to continue to use nitrogen to avoid any mishaps. The cosmetic industry is another example of when nitrogen is a better option. A lot of those products cannot have any imperfections on them and while air does provide quality work it could leave some minor imperfections in the product.
Air assisted gas is a progressive resource and a great choice if a company is seeking to lower cost and raise production. If the industry that you are in fits well with the type of materials the air assist works best with then it will be fairly easy and wise to make the transition. With everything there is always pros and cons to any situation. After learning more information about air as it relates to nitrogen take all factors into situation and make the correct choice for your product. If the type of work you do varies then using both could work. You could save money when necessary and continue to use nitrogen or oxygen when the product calls for it.