A laser cutter is a computer controlled machine that uses a laser beam to precisely cut or engrave material. A laser is basically just highly focused, highly amplified light. The laser beam causes the material to locally burn, melt or vaporize. The kind of material that a laser can cut depends on the type of laser and the specific machine’s power.
What can you do with a laser cutter?
In general, there are three tasks that a laser cutter can perform: Engraving, Cutting and Marking.
When the laser beam goes all the way through the material of the workpiece it creates a cut. A laser cut is generally very precise and clean. The look of the cut edges depends on the material.
For example, the edges of cut wood are typical of a darker brown than the original wood. The edges of acrylic do not change color and have a nice glossy finish after laser cutting.
The kerf of a laser cutter is very small. The term kerf refers to the width of the groove made while cutting. This varies from material to material and is also dependent on the specific settings of the laser. For many materials, the kerf will be somewhere between 0.05 mm (0.002 in) and 0.5 mm (0.02 in).
Marking is when the laser does not remove material but for example, changes the color of the material. With CO2 laser cutters marking is mostly used when working with metals.
A marking solution (e.g. CerMark or Enduramark) is applied on the surface of the workpiece. After drying of the marking solution an engraving is performed. The heat from the laser bonds the solution to the metal, resulting in a permanent mark.
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