Laser cutting services use industrial-grade lasers to cut metals, plastics, rubber, glass, stone, foam, and composite materials. Laser cutting is a CNC-controlled, non-contact, thermal process that provides quick, accurate cuts with a narrow kerf or cutting groove.
Types of Lasers
Most laser cutting services use carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers or neodymium-doped, yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) lasers. Both types of devices produce cuts by focusing a beam of monochromatic light on very small spot, typically less than 0.5 mm in diameter. Light from CO2 lasers is transmitted by mirrors or transmissive optics. Light from Nd:YAG lasers is transmitted by fiber optics, allowing for the three-dimensional cutting or trimming of parts. Once a zone of molten or vaporized material is created, a jet of assist gas is delivered co-axially through the cutting nozzle to eject the cut material from the kerf. The resulting cut is clean, square and distortion-free. Most laser cutting services offer short setup times and cutting that requires little or no finishing.
Laser cutting services differ in terms of services offered. Examples include CAD/CAM support, design assistance, low or high volume production, and quality assurance. Computer aided design or drafting (CAD) is used to design products quickly and accurately. Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) is used to fabricate products directly from CAD outputs. Laser cutting services that provide design assistance can help with concepts, manufacturing costs, manufacturing techniques and material considerations such as sourcing. They may also be able to assist with upgrading, redesigning, reevaluating or modernizing existing products to increase performance and/or reduce manufacturing costs. Some laser cutting services specialize in low volume or high volume production. Others provide quality inspection reports or statistical process control data. Companies that specialize in cutting tubes and pipes, wires and rods, tapes and adhesives, films and sheets, or woven and knitted textiles are also available.
Service Locations and Standards
Laser cutting services are located across the United States and throughout the world. Many meet quality requirements from organizations such as the International Standards Organization (ISO). Quality certifications include ISO 9001:2000, ISO 9001 and ISO 9002. ISO 9001:2000 establishes requirements for a company’s quality management systems. ISO 9001 is limited to business processes ranging from design and development to production, installation and servicing. ISO 9002 is similar to ISO 9001, but does not include design control requirements. QS 9000 is a quality standard for suppliers of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation. QS 9000 is based on the 1994 edition of ISO 9001, but contains additional requirements that are particular to the automotive industry.