August 16, 2023
BLOG: The Cutting Edge – Using Compressed Air with Nukon Fibre Lasers
Fibre lasers have become the laser of choice for many metal cutting applications, due to their high beam quality, good efficiency, and low running costs.
Nukon’s machines are at the forefront of this trend.
Fibre lasers require an assist gas during the cutting process. This gas blows away molten material from the cut and helps prevent oxidation, and with some processes supports combustion of the material.
Traditionally, nitrogen or oxygen have been used as assist gases. However, compressed air offers some unique advantages as an assist gas for fibre laser cutting.
The main appeal of using compressed air is cost savings. Compressed air is far cheaper for the user than nitrogen or oxygen.
Most shops already have an air compressor on hand that can be used to supply air for laser cutting, although due to purity requirements it may need some modification.
There is no need for high pressure gas cylinders and the associated logistics and costs. Even if a compressor needs to be purchased, the savings on gas supplies will quickly offset the capital investment.
Compressed air offers a high level of convenience compared to bottled gases. There is no need to monitor gas levels and order replacement cylinders.
The air compressor can simply be switched on when needed. Most modern compressors are highly energy-efficient and do not need to run continuously.
They can easily keep up with the average demand for laser cutting. There are also no high-pressure cylinders to store and transport around the shop.
Some may be concerned about using air due to its oxygen content. However, excellent clean cutting results can still be achieved as long as the oxygen assists the molten material ejection and does not react excessively with the cut material.
Fast traverse speeds are important for minimizing oxidation when using air, therefore air works best on thinner materials.
Slower cutting of thin materials is more prone to discoloration. However, most users find minimal oxidation issues when compressed air is used appropriately.
Choosing compressed air over bottled gases has environmental advantages. Less industrial gas production reduces energy consumption and emissions.
Empty disposable cylinders are also eliminated from the waste stream. The only resources consumed are electricity to run the air compressor and the maintenance of the air system.
This combined with the low energy demands of Nukon fibre lasers, gives fibre laser cutting with air a small carbon footprint.
In order to ensure high performance its important for the air system to be correctly specified for laser cutting with air.
The air should be free of particles, water and oil, as contaminates can foul the optics of the laser head and effect the cutting process. It’s also important to have the correct pressure and flow. Adding an extra receiver and booster pump may be beneficial.
In summary, compressed air is a versatile and economical assist gas for Nukon fibre lasers.
The cost and convenience benefits typically outweigh the minimal oxidation risk. Compressed air is worth consideration by any shop looking to maximize their productivity and profitability on fibre laser cutting systems.