Laser cutters are now available in compact and desk top models. These are perfect for etching and engraving as well as cutting. Artists, hobbyists, creators of custom products, and crafty people can now afford a machine to produce finished projects much faster, and with more precision. The capabilities of a laser make it possible to work with many materials that would be destroyed in other types of mechanical cutters and engravers.
Laser machines require laser tubes to produce the desired outcome. There are a few kinds of tubes, but gas tubes are the most common. They result in the most powerful continuous laser beam and are energy-efficient. Gas tubes, referred to as CO2 tubes, contain a combination of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, helium, and nitrogen.
DC versus RF CO2 Tubes
Direct current (DC) lasers are made of glass and create the beam via electrical charge. The process involves exciting the gas molecules with electricity to start a chain reaction that results in the beam. Radio frequency (RF) tubes utilize radio waves to excite molecules, hence the name. The mechanisms are different, but the end results are the same.
The laser tube prices for each type differ greatly, which has influence over which type is selected for the laser cutters. On company in America, Boss Laser, offers machines that use both types of CO2 tubes. DC tubes are considerably cheaper than the RF variety. The trade-off is that they have to be replaced four times as often as the more expensive RF tubes. Most owners of small cutters select DC tubes, while businesses that operate large cutters favor RF tubes.
Tubes of either type are available in a variety of wattage levels. The wattage dictates the maximum power the laser can achieve. Desk top models, for example, operate well with tubes that have between two to seven watts. Commercial and industrial cutters operate with wattage levels that start at twenty-five. Machines needed to cut thicker materials will have a 100 watt CO2 laser tube, or a 150w laser tube.
Gas tubes can reach as high as one-thousand watts, but will not be found in cutting machines. That much power needs to be respected, and precautions are warranted. Safety glasses, grounding to guard against electric shock, and proper training are an excellent place to start. Installation and training are available when any new machine is purchased. Life-long technical support services via phone or internet are also included in the prices of machines.