Laser cutters have evolved from prototyping tools to highly-productive finishing systems. Read on to learn about developments in lasers, control software, and other facets of the technology that make laser cutting systems a viable option for any shop currently using conventional, tool-based cutting machines.
By Markus Klemm
A Guide to Laser Cutting Technology, Part 2
Continued from A Guide to Laser Cutting Technology, Part 1
Cutting speed vs. web speed
Today’s laser cutting systems are faster for a variety of reasons. As previously mentioned, the systems feature more affordable, higher powered (200-watt +) lasers that cut more quickly and sophisticated algorithms that shave time off of every cutting operation. Additionally, and most importantly, today’s high-quality laser cutting machines are able to better optimize the cutting sequence to support much faster web speeds.
To illustrate the impact of software that can optimize for web speed see Figures 5A-5B. In each figure, the blue dotted lines show where cutting has stopped while the laser repositions for the next cut. Figure 5A shows a cutting sequence that has not been optimized by the control software. In such non-optimized cutting, the path follows the lines of the vector image in the order that they were created. This non-optimized cutting sequence is so slow that the web would only be able to advance intermittently.
In Figure 5B, we realize a significant improvement in web speed that is brought about automatically by the sophisticated algorithms in the control software, which optimize the cutting path to minimize laser repositioning. The improved web speed is determined during the setup of the job, prior to production.
Another approach to optimizing web speed during setup is to split the image (cutting path) into two or more separate images and cut each portion in a separate operation. This can lead to substantial web-speed improvements with complex images. Such optimization also is handled automatically by the software. In fact, the software can tell the operator whether it is best to cut the geometry as a single image, two images, four, etc. Today’s top-end laser cutting technology can seamlessly stitch these multiple images together to maximize web speed or to allow for cutting a design with dimensions longer than the width of the laser cutter’s working field.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.