How does laser cutting work

We will show you how laser cutting works and which materials you can cut with a laser.

Laser cutting is a frequently used process today for cutting a variety of materials. The high accuracy, speed and versatility of the laser are the big advantages when using a laser cutting process. Here is an explanation of how laser cutting works and for which materials it can be used.


Laser cutting procedure explained technically

Laser cutting is a type of thermal separation process. The laser beam hits the surface of the material and heats it so strongly that it melts or completely vaporizes. Once the laser beam has completely penetrated the material at one point, the actual cutting process begins. The laser system follows the selected geometry and separates the material in the process. Depending on the application, the use of process gases can positively influence the results.

Other details about the technical procedure in laser cutting can be seen in our video.

HOW DOES LASER CUTTING WORK? HERE'S A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF THE BASICS

Learn more about the process of laser cutting in this video

The advantages of a laser when cutting

Here are the primary reasons to use a laser for the cutting process:

   
Suitable for many type of materials No other technology can cut so many different types of organic and inorganic materials.
No post processing is necessary Laser is a separation process in which no post processing is necessary in many cases. It even seals the edges of textiles such as synthetics or carpet, so that no unraveling starts. This saves post-processing procedures, such as mechanical sealing or sanding, depending on the type of material being processed.
High accuracy The resulting kerf is barely larger than the laser beam itself. This makes it possible to cut very fine geometries of any shape. In addition, integrated cameras (JobControl Vision) can create registration marks and automatically compensate for the cutting path - even if the original template gets out of alignment, turned or distorted.
No tool wear
Laser cutting machines are not subject to wear, for example, tool heads do not become dull. That saves costs in ongoing operation.

Laser cutting, plasma cutting, mechanical cutting - cutting procedures in comparison

Plasma cutting is a thermal fusion cutting process that is frequently used to cut steel, stainless steel and aluminum. Compared to a laser, the lower cut quality, higher energy consumption, increased dust creation and noise emissions are frequently cited as disadvantages. But when cutting any electrically conductive material, plasma cutting is often the technology of choice because of its flexibility.

Compared to mechanical chip removal cutting processes, however, a laser also often has its advantages. The non-contact processing, reduced setup costs, lower contamination and flexibility for processing are just a few of those. Depending on the material and application, every processing method naturally has its advantages, for instance, when cutting multiple samples in a stack at the same time.

What materials can be cut with the laser?

The versatility of materials that can be processed is one of the great advantages of the laser.
You can see the range of possibilities for yourself from the following table.

Plastic 

Miscellanious

Metal

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Wood Metal foils up to 0.5mm
Acrylic/PMMA, i.e. Plexiglas® Polyimide (PI) Paper (white)  
Rubber Polyoxymethylene (POM) -i.e. Delrin® Paper (colored)  
Polyamide (PA) Polypropylene (PP) Food  
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) Leather  
Polycarbonate (PC) Polystyrene (PS) Fabric  
Polyethylene (PE) Polyurethane (PUR) Cardboard  
Polyester (PES) Foam (PVC free) Cork  

Trotec product recommendation for laser cutting:

Discover SP laser cutting machines

Laser Cutters - SP Series

SP series: CO2 laser cutter for large-format materials.

Product Details

Other laser applications: Marking and engraving

Trotec laser machines are not only suitable for cutting, but also for marking and engraving.
Learn more about processing methods: