As customers push for ever more complex shapes and faster turnaround on the labels and other cut parts they order, screen shops have begun relying on sophisticated laser cutting systems to meet their clients
By Bill Knotts
How are today’s laser cutting systems different from earlier generation technology?
The capabilities of the latest generation of high-end laser cutting systems are dramatically more advanced than the technology that was first introduced five or so years ago. Basically, three areas of technological improvements contribute to these more far-ranging capabilities: advances in lasers, improved software, and better software integration.
Manufacturers of the lasers used in laser cutting technology have continued to improve them and to offer better lasers at lower cost. These newer lasers shape beams with greater precision. Higher powered lasers now cost less, such that even basic laser cutting systems can today use competitively priced 200-watt or 400-watt lasers, which only were available in the priciest systems several years ago. To a certain extent, higher-powered lasers facilitate faster cutting action. The better-shaped beams of today’s lasers are also more easily steered by galvo systems at greater speeds.
These improvements in lasers, while significant, are surpassed by the advantages conferred by the high quality software engineered for the latest laser cutting systems. The most highly developed systems have improved software at every level—the building-block algorithms of programs are more robust, the mathematical concepts that underlie the programming are more sophisticated, and the overall systems integration is more comprehensive. The end result is software that works behind the scenes, so to speak, to control and maneuver laser beams within tolerances that were out of reach only a few years ago. Moreover, the software does this without requiring any programming expertise from the operator.
Users of newer laser systems see these improvements in several ways. The telltale pinholes and burn-throughs that were made by earlier laser cutting units have been eliminated. In turn, this has made laser cutters ideal for handling a wide array of special requirements—perforations, creases, score lines, kiss cuts, consecutive numbering, personalizations, etc.
Are laser cutting systems used for prototyping or full production?
Both. The advantages of laser cutting systems being tool-free will always make them a superior option for prototyping work because there is no delay or expense for tooling. And better lasers and better software engineering have created speed improvements for handling full production as well.
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