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A Guide to Laser Cutting Technology, Part 2

(April 2009) posted on Tue Apr 21, 2009

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.

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By Markus Klemm

Figures 6A-6C show further examples of how non-optimized cutting compares to cutting that is only optimized for maximum cutting speed and cutting that is also optimized for maximum web speed. In Figure 6A the cutting sequence is not in any way optimized for speed, but instead proceeds along the lines of how the artwork was originally drawn. This is the worst case scenario and demonstrates how more primitive laser cutters without software improvements of any kind operated. In this case, cutting proceeds at 37% of the cutting speed achieved in Figure 6B, where the cutting sequences are optimized for the fastest cutting speed.

Until recently, optimizing for cutting speed was the best that laser cutting machines could manage. But the algorithms in today’s higher quality laser cutters take this to the next step by accounting for web speed when figuring in adjustments to the cutting sequence. For example, if the web is moving from right to left, this means that the geometry details on the far left need to be cut first and that the way in which the scan heads are moved will depend on the web speed being used. This is shown in Figure 6C, where the cutting sequence is also optimized for web speed, not just cutting speed, and allows a web speed that is 350% faster. So, while systems that automatically optimize for cutting speed are beneficial, those incorporating software that also optimizes for web speed will provide the highest productivity.

The more sophisticated software algorithms in laser cutters that optimize for web speed also give an unprecedented ability to continuously laser cut pictures that are longer than half of the working field. Obsolete models of laser cutters that can only optimize for cutting speed, not web speed, restrict the sizes of images that can be cut to no larger than half the size of the working field. The same algorithms that optimize for web speed also eliminate the need for up to 90% of the hard cuts and quality issues that arise when you try to stitch two images together. They do this automatically, in contrast to obsolete models of laser cutting machines that require operators to manually reset the cutting sequence to avoid hard cuts in the artwork.


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