Laser cutting machines and laser welding machines use a high-powered laser to cut or perforate plates or sheets made of metal, plastic, rubber, glass, stone, foam, or composite materials. Laser cutting is a computer numeric controlled (CNC), non-contact, thermal process that provides quick, accurate cuts with a narrow kerf or cutting grove. Most laser cutting and welding machines uses carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers or neodymium-doped, yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) lasers. Other types of laser cutting and welding machines are also available. Carbon dioxide (CO2) laser cutting and welding machines uses the energy-state transitions between vibrational and rotational states of CO2 molecules to emit light at long infrared (IR) wavelengths, usually about 10 µm. CO2 lasers maintain continuous and very high levels of power, making them suitable for a variety of cutting and marking applications. Nd:YAG lasers emit IR light with a wavelength of 1064 nm and can operate in both pulsed and continuous modes. They are used to cut steel and superalloys at power levels ranging from 1 to 5 kW. Nd:YAG lasers are also used for laser eye surgery and laser vision correction.
Specifications for laser cutting machines and laser welding machines includes laser type, power, cutting or traverse speed, X-axis travel, Y-axis travel, and Z-axis travel. There are three types of carbon dioxide lasers: axial gas flow, transverse gas flow, and sealed tube. For sealed tube lasers, the power output is 40 to 80 watts (W) per meter (m) of tube length. Nd:YAG lasers are pumped by flash lamps, continuous gas discharge lamps, or near-IR laser diodes. Most laser cutting and welding machines are designed to cut metal, plastic, rubber, glass, stone, marble, granite, foam, or composite materials. Specialty laser cutting and welding machines are used to cut tubes, pipes, wires, rods, tapes, adhesives, films, or textiles. Some laser cutting and welding machines includes a computer interface or integral software. Other systems include motorized heads, guidance modules or robotic arms, gantry tables, pallets, cabinets, monitoring systems or sensors, laser optics or beam delivery components, laser heads or focusing modules, and air or gas cooling.