Ever since its introduction in the mid 1900’s the laser has come a long way. From light shows to scientific experiments, this optical phenomenon has been used in a variety of avenues. Today, lasers are being used in the manufacture process as cutting equipment.
Laser cutting devices direct a high-powered laser beam at the required surface. this makes the surface burn, melt or vaporize, giving the end product a high quality finish. Laser cutting is used on a variety of surfaces such as plastic, glass, metal and so on. Wood is another popular surface for laser cutting.
Most laser cutters are powered by CO2. Wood has a high absorption of the 10.6-micron wavelength of CO2. The cutting takes place as a result of a chemical degradation process, where wood fiber is burned away and removed under the pressure of an assist gas. Due to this, the edges of wood articles cut by the laser process appear charred, but there is negligible surface discoloration.
There are several factors that influence the ability of a laser to cut wood. Firstly, the characteristic of the laser beam should be taken into consideration. These include power, mode, polarization and stability. Usually, lasers used for cutting wood range between 200 to 800 watts. However, depending on the application and the intricacy of work, the beam density maybe varied. The equipment and processing variables such as the design of the beam, the feed speed and the type of gas used also greatly affect the wood cutting process. Lastly, the properties of the work piece also affect the efficiency of the laser cutting process. For example, dry lightweight woods are easy to cut, while dense moisture laden woods require more effort.
The laser cutting process scores several advantages over the conventional wood cutting methods. The traditional saw cutting method cannot match the level of accuracy and intricacy achieved by laser cutting. Moreover, the durability of the end product is greater and wastage of materials is minimized. However, with each machine accompanied by a cost of several thousand dollars, it is not an affordable option for everyone.