What laser power do I need for my application

When selecting your laser machine the most important factor to consider is your main application. For laser engraving applications, good results can be achieved with laser power between 25 and 80 watts. For laser cutting or applications requiring high processing speeds we would recommend a laser power greater than 80 watts.

This article aims to give you an understanding of the topis "optimal laser power". Your Trotec representative will be able to advise you of what the the optimum power for your application is. 

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What are the practical implications of laser power?

The maximum laser power of your laser machine affects both the quality of your products and the working time. The difference between two power levels is best demonstrated using examples. In this case we have laser engraved anodised aluminium and cut our logo from 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 aluminium

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

How does the choice of material affect the laser power requirement?

Different materials require different laser powers to achieve the optimum result. For example, laser engraving paper typically requires less power than laser engraving wood. With acrylic, a uniformly homogeneous material, finer laser engraving can be created using a low power. For engraving laminates such as TroLase, higher laser power enables a faster working time. 

Using your laser software you can easily regulate the laser power. However, the maximum laser power is dependant on your hardware. A laser machine which has a higher laser power offers greater processing flexibility for many different materials.

The following table shows an overview of the required minimum powers for different materials:
These values are guidelines. A higher laser power usually leads to faster throughput times and higher efficiency.

Material Recommend laser power (watts)
  Engraving Laser engraving and laser 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
Anodised aluminium 30 -

The optimum power for laser cutting applications

When processing thicker materials, a higher laser power is crucial for achieving a good quality result. As a rule of thumb for acrylic for example, we recommend 10 watts per milimeter. 

A comparison of the laser cutting time for different sheet thicknesses of acrylic between 200 and 400 watts is shown in the graphic.

In addition to acrylic, other plastics can be processed by laser, such as polycarbonate or SAN. These require high powers of 200 or 400 watts in order to be able to cut them cleanly even with a comparatively low thickness of 2 and 3 mm.

What laser power is needed for a fiber laser?

Whilst the range of applications for fiber lasers is not as vast as CO2 lasers, the main application is still crucial when selecting your laser power. Laser engraving metal requiress a high laser power. As an example, using the annealing and laser marking methods, good results can be achieved with 20 or 30 watts.

Which laser machine is best for me?

We would be happy to advise you on the optimal choice of laser machine for your application.
Take advantage of our many years of experience in a consultation, application testing and laser demonstration.

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