How does laser cutting work?

"How do I laser cut? And what materials can use?"

Laser cutting is a very popular process today for many fine cutting applications. The accuracy, speed and versatility of a laser machine make it the obvious, perfect choice. Read on to learn how laser cutting works and which materials are suitable. Wo knows? Maybe you could use a Trotec laser cutter for your business... 


What exactly is laser cutting?

So, let’s get technical. Laser cutting is officially a process of thermal separation. The high-powered laser beam hits the surface of your chosen material and heats is so strongly and rapidly that it inevitably melts or vaporises. Then, once the laser beam has completely penetrated the material, the 'cutting' process begins. The laser will follow the selected geometry and continues separating the material as it goes. Depending on your application, the use of process gases can help your results. 

You can find more information about the technicalities of laser cutting in the following video.

HOW DOES LASER CUTTING WORK?

Learn more about the process of laser cutting in this video

The Laser Cutting Advantage

Material Suitability

No conventional system can cut so many different materials - organic as well as inorganic. And, depending on the machine you choose, the list of available processing materials gets longer.

Minimal Post-Processing

As discussed earlier, laser cutting is a separation process. In most cases, there is little to no post-processing required. As the laser cuts, it seals and soothes the edges of textiles and acrylic. You won't need to mechanically seal or sand your finished products anymore!

Highly Accurate

Resulting kerfs are barely larger than the laser beam itself, making it easy to cut tiny geometries. Additionally, integrated camera systems (JobControl Vision) can create registration marks and automatically adjust the cutting path to meet a printed material's design.

No Tool Wear

One of the best things about laser cutting machines is that they are not subject to any kind of wear and tear. For example, there are no 'tool heads' that can become blunt or dull, as the only tool being used is the laser beam itself. This will save ongoing costs and time now and into the future.

A Comparison of Cutting Procedures

Plasma Cutting vs Mechanical Cutting vs Laser Cutting

Plasma cutting is a thermal fusion cutting process that is usually used to cut things like steel, stainless steel and aluminium. When compared to a laser, it tends to have a much lower cut quality, higher energy consumption, a lot of dust and noise creation. It’s frequently criticised because of these disadvantages. But, when cutting any kind electronically conductive material, plasma cutting is usually the technology of choice due to its flexibility. However, compared to mechanical chip removal cutting processes, a laser also has a lot of great advantages. The non-contact processing, reduced setup costs and lower contamination results are just a few things you can expect when adopting a laser into your business.

Depending on the material you are using and your chosen application, every processing method naturally has its advantages and disadvantages. Keep this in mind when choosing your next cutting solution.

Suitable Materials for Cutting

The variety of materials that can be processed is one of the great advantages of the laser. Observe the range of possibilities for yourself...

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 (coloured)  
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  

*Most metal cannot be cut with a laser

Trotec Product Recommendation:

Discover the SP Series

Laser Cutters - SP Series

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

Product Details

Ready to start Laser Marking & Laser Engraving?

Trotec laser machines are perfect for most cutting applications. But cutting is not all they are capable of! Trotec
machines are also perfectly suited for marking and engraving applications. Learn more about these processing
methods here: