How much laser power do I need for my application?

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When deciding how much laser power is right got you, one of the most important factors to consider is what application(s) you'll be using the laser for most often. If you'll be using the laser primarily for engraving, the best results may be achieved with a laser power of between 25 to 80 watts. In order to maximise productivity when laser cutting, when speed is paramount, we suggest a laser power of in excess of 80 watts. The greater the laser power, the faster, and thicker, material will be cut.

While this blog is dedicated to helping guide you in deciding what laser power is right for you, please contact us to arrange a personal consultation. We would be pleased to discuss your individual applications, and help reccomend the best laser power.

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What effect does laser power really have in practice?

The maximum laser power affects both the quality of your products and your productivity. The difference between two power levels is best demonstrated using examples. Check out the following example of engraving an aluminum data plate, and another where we have cut the Trotec logo out of acrylic.

Cast acrylic

10 mm, plate size 1000 x 500 mm, 352 units with a height of 50 mm each

Laser power: 80 watts
Progress: 65 % finished
Time per unit: 29 seconds 

Laser power: 120 watts
Progress: 100% finished
Time per unit: 29 seconds

Anodised aluminum

Data plate, layout 700 x 420 mm 49 units per 100 x 60 mm

Laser power: 30 watts
Progress: 48% finished
Time per unit: 55 seconds

Laser power: 80 Watts
Progress: 100% finished
Time per unit: 55 seconds

Recommended laser power for different materials

Each material reacts differently to laser power, and requires specific parameters to achieve the optimum result. e.g. engraving paper requires less power than engraving wood. With acrylic, a light, not too deep engraving can be created using low power. Higher power enables faster processing of plastic laminates such as TroLase. In this example, more laser power equals more productivity.

JobControl software enables the user to quickly adjust the laser power. However, the maximum power available depends on the maximum power output of the laser tube installed in the laser.  Selecting a laser with a higher laser power offers greater flexibility as it allows you to process a variety of different materials, faster.

The table below shows an overview of the suggested minimum powers for different materials:
The values are guidelines only. Higher laser powers lead to greater productivity.

Material Recommend laser power (watts)
  Engraving Engraving and cutting
MDF (6mm) 40 60
Laminate/engraving materials (1.6. mm) 40 40
Paper 25 40
Acrylic (3mm) 30 40
Stamp (2.3 mm) 30 30
Anodized aluminum 30 -

The optimum laser power for cutting applications

High laser powers are the secret to achieivng quality cut results for thick materials. As a rule of thumb, acrylic requires 10 watts per millimeter (of thickness). So a 10mm thick acrylic sheet is best cut with a 100w laser or greater.

A comparison of the cutting time for different sheet thicknesses of acrylic using 200 and 400 watts is shown in the image.

In addition to acrylic, other plastics e.g. polycarbonate or SAN require high powers of between 200 - 400 watts in order to achieve a clean cut, even with thin sheets of 2 and 3 mm.

What laser power is needed for a fiber laser?

Even with a fiber laser, understanding the primary application is critical to selecting the right laser power. High laser powers are required to engrave metals. Laser powers of 20 or 30 watts are suitable for annealing stainless steel.

Which laser machine is best for me?

We would be happy to help guide you in selecting the right laser power for your application.
Take advantage of our experience - and book a consultation, application test or demonstration today.

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