If you are looking for a laser cutting machine then this is equally important to understand the differences between a fiber laser and a CO2 laser engraver. This article focuses on all the technical aspects along with the pros and & cons of both fiber & CO2 laser cutters.
Both the CO2 lasers and fiber lasers are two different types of laser cutters having the diversified ability to cut, mark and engrave on different materials. In a nutshell, CO2 laser engravers & cutters are run by electricity and generate laser power with the help of gas and the fiber lasers use a fiber optic mechanism to transform electricity into an aggregated laser beam to cut thicker materials that are beyond the capacity of CO2 laser.
CO2 Laser Cutters
A C02 laser cutter is a machine that uses a beam of laser light to cut, engrave, and mark a variety of materials such as wood, metal, plastic, and glass. It works by focusing a high–powered laser beam on the material to be cut.
The laser beam is generated by a gas mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other gases. The gas mixture is then heated to create a plasma, which is then directed through a focusing lens to create the laser beam.
The laser beam is directed by an X, Y, and Z axis of motion, allowing the laser to cut, engrave, or mark the material in three–dimensional shapes. The speed and accuracy of the C02 laser cutter are determined by the power of the laser, the speed of the motion, and the thickness of the material being cut.
The higher the power of the laser, the faster the cut speed and the greater the accuracy of the cut. One of the major benefits of using a C02 laser cutter is its ability to cut materials that are too thick for a traditional cutting tool. With a C02 laser cutter, even thick materials such as aluminum and steel can be cut precisely and quickly.
A fiber laser cutter is a type of laser cutting machine that utilizes a fiber laser to cut and engrave materials. The fiber lasers used in these machines are high-powered, solid-state lasers that are typically more efficient and reliable than other laser systems.
These lasers generate a beam of light that is focused and directed through a series of mirrors, lenses, and other optical components, allowing for precise and accurate cutting and engraving of materials. Fiber laser cutters are extremely versatile and can be used on a variety of materials, including metals, plastics, wood, glass, and paper.
Only MOPA fibers can produce color engravings and other fiber lasers cannot. Learn more about MOPA vs fiber laser here.
The laser beam can be adjusted to different power settings for different types of materials, allowing for precise cutting and engraving. Additionally, the laser beam can be moved in three axes (X, Y, and Z) for a variety of cutting patterns. Fiber laser cutters offer a number of advantages over other types of laser cutting machines. For one, they require less maintenance than other laser machines and are more reliable.
Additionally, they can produce higher quality cuts than other laser systems, as well as faster cutting speeds. Fiber laser cutters are often used in a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, medical, manufacturing, and more.
In this section, we will narrow down the competencies of both fiber laser and CO2 laser. Both the laser cutters will be compared based on their technology, strength, precision, ability & engraving performance. The comparison will be evident with the available data so that the users can have a proper understanding.
Wavelength is a fundamental property of light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is the distance between successive wave crests or the distance from one point on a wave to the next in the same direction.
Wavelength is typically measured in units of nanometers (nm), meters (m), and angstroms (A). Wavelengths of light vary depending on the source of the light. Visible light has wavelengths ranging from 400 to 700 nanometers. Ultraviolet radiation has a wavelength ranging from 10 to 400 nanometers. Radio waves have even longer wavelengths, ranging from a few millimeters to several kilometers.
The wavelength of a fiber laser is typically in the range of 1 μm to 2 μm, while the wavelength of a CO2 laser is usually 10.6 μm. This means that the difference in wavelength between a fiber laser and a CO2 laser is typically 9.6 μm.
Application of Wavelength
Understanding the laser cutter’s wavelength is important because the user needs to know what type of wavelength is required for which material.
For instance, engraving on fabric is tough because the fabric cannot absolve wavelength beyond 2 μm. So, fiber lasers are not a suitable option for laser engraving in fabric but a CO2 laser is. Read our fabric engraving guide here.
Similarly, cutting thicker materials such as industrial sheet metal would require a wavelength of a minimum of 7 μm that is delivered by only fiber laser cutters. So, CO2 or other diode lasers cannot cut sheet metal but you are always free to engrave them with these laser engravers.
Spot size plays a key role while laser cutting and engraving. In a nutshell, a wider spot represents that there will be a wider kerf size and a smaller spot size would ensure better precision.
The spot size of a CO2 laser cutter typically ranges from 0.1 mm to 2.0 mm depending on the power and type of laser. The spot size of a fiber laser cutter varies, depending on the manufacturer and model. Generally, the spot size can range from 0.01 mm to 0.2 mm.
This means, that the fiber lasers are ensuring better precision with their ability to cut at thinner kerf size compared to the Co2 lasers.
Each type of material has its own ability to absorb the wavelength/power generated by the laser. Heavier materials such as copper and brass would require heavier heat which is why the fiber laser is required to work with copper & brass.
Alternatively, Softer materials such as wood, leather, hardboard, stone, and plastics cannot absorb the heat generated by the fiber laser and that is why the CO2 lasers come into assistance.
Materials such as coated stainless steel and aluminum can absorb heat generated by both CO2 lasers and fiber lasers. However, CO2 lasers may not be the right ones to cut heavier material and you may need a fiber laser for that.
Similarly, the engraving or marking works in coated steel, mild steel, and aluminum can be done by both fiber laser and CO2 laser engravers.
The most commonly used materials for CO2 laser cutting and engraving are wood, acrylic, plastic, leather, rubber, and fabric. Some metals can also be cut with a CO2 laser, including aluminum, brass, and mild steel.
Fiber lasers are used in a variety of materials, including metal, plastic, glass, and ceramics. They are commonly used in cutting, welding, marking, and engraving applications.
Laser marking is a process that uses a laser beam to permanently mark a surface with an image, text, or other patterns. It is a form of laser engraving that is used to create permanent marks on a variety of materials, including metals, plastics, and ceramics. Laser marking is used in a variety of industries, including medical device manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, and electronics manufacturing.
While we talk about laser marking, Fiber lasers are the only option because of the smaller spot size and better precision. For instance, the marking we see on the gold jewelry cannot be done by the CO2 lasers and the fiber lasers are the only option.
The cutting range of a laser cutter depends on the laser power and the depth of the material.
The cutting range of a CO2 laser is typically between 0.25mm and 25mm depending on the power of the laser and the material being cut. For instance, cutting thinner materials (less than 8mm thickness) are always easier with a CO2 laser. However, fiber lasers help in cutting thicker materials that require higher heat/wavelength.
Let’s imagine that you need to cut 10 mm industrial steel sheet and you would definitely look for a fiber laser to get the job done efficiently.
The cutting range of a fiber laser is determined by several factors, such as the type of material being cut, the size of the laser beam, the power of the laser, and the speed of the cutting head. The cutting range of a fiber laser is typically much larger than that of a traditional laser. This is due to the fact that the wavelength of a fiber laser is much shorter than that of a traditional laser.
This allows for more accurate and efficient cutting on a wide range of materials. The cutting range of a fiber laser is determined by the power of the laser. Generally, higher-power lasers will have a larger cutting range. The power of a laser is measured in watts, and the range of watts available can range from 500 to 2000 watts. The higher the wattage, the greater the cutting range. The size of the laser beam also plays an important role in determining the cutting range of a fiber laser. The larger the beam diameter, the larger the cutting range.
Here’s an illustration that determines the cutting ability of both the laser cutters as per the thickness, correlated to laser power.
|Material Type||CO2 Laser (4kW) - Max cutting range (inch)||Fiber Laser (4KW) - Max cutting range (inch)|
The main difference has appeared in aluminum cutting. Regardless of the cutting range, a fiber laser also allows for gaining maximum efficiency by offering the smallest spot size & highest precision that are not noticed in a CO2 laser cutting machine.
Cutting Edge Evaluation
Edge evaluation figures out which cutting machine offer a smoother cut. For Instance, a 6mm sheet would be okay to cut in either a CO2 laser or a fiber Laser. There will be no big differences because a 6 mm sheet can absorb wavelength produced by both CO2 and a laser cutter. While using a CO2 laser, the laser beam will melt & vapourize the steel quickly and there will be less time to produce a rough finish on the surface.
Similarly, applying fiber laser in a 6 mm sheet would offer a finer cut because the laser beam would reflect several times and ensure cut before the surface gets rough.
However, the differences will be noticed if you consider cutting a 10 mm sheet.
A 10 mm sheet would generate a smoother surface with a fiber laser while the CO2 laser will result in a rough surface because the laser beam will take a higher time to reach the bottom compared to the fiber laser.
Here’s an illustration of how CO2 laser results in a rough surface for extra time consumption while cutting thicker material.
Cutting Speed Comparison
If we compare the cutting speed of both the Fiber laser and CO2 laser, here’s the bottom line.
|Material||Thickness||6 KW CO2 Laser (inch/minute)||6 KW Fiber Laser (inch/minute)|
|Stainless Steel||5 mm||106||236|
|Stainless Steel||15 mm||29||35|
|Mild Steel||5 mm||165||165|
|Mild Steel||15 mm||69||47|
So, what we understood is that the fiber laser offers a more efficient cutting speed compared to the CO2 lasers mainly for the thicker steels. However, the difference is not severe when compared based on cutting a 5 mm steel sheet.
Fiber laser will offer you a great laser marking facility but only to be applied on metal. Fiber laser marking or engraving would not be suitable for non-metal items such as wood, acrylics, plastics, and stone.
Laser engraving requires laser heat that is easily absorbed by the engraved material. This is why CO2 lasers are most suitable for engraving works.
Return on Investment
When it comes to choosing between a fiber laser and a CO2 laser, the decision of which is more cost effective depends on the intended use of the laser. If a user needs a laser that can cut through thicker materials or materials with higher reflectivity, then a fiber laser may be the more cost effective option.
However, if a user needs a laser that is better suited for engraving and marking, then a CO2 laser may be the more cost effective option. Fiber lasers are generally more expensive than CO2 lasers due to the fact that they produce higher power output, allowing them to cut through thicker materials with greater precision. They also can produce better quality results when cutting reflective materials such as aluminum or brass.
Fiber lasers also require less maintenance and are more energy efficient than CO2 lasers. The main advantage of a CO2 laser is that it is better suited for engraving and marking, as it is able to produce finer detail and sharper edges than a fiber laser.
Additionally, CO2 lasers do not require as much maintenance as fiber lasers, and they are also more affordable. When it comes to choosing between a fiber laser and a CO2 laser, the decision of which is more cost effective depends on the application.
When it comes to laser cutting, there are two main types of laser technology available: fiber laser and CO2 laser. Both of these technologies offer advantages and disadvantages depending on the application and the specific requirements of the user. In terms of maintenance, fiber laser technology is generally considered to be easier to maintain than CO2 laser technology.
Fiber lasers are a type of solid–state laser that utilize a special optical fiber as the active medium. This allows the laser to be more compact and efficient, meaning that the system requires fewer components and is generally easier to maintain than a CO2 laser. Fiber lasers are constructed with a single, sealed unit that is designed to be relatively maintenance–free, meaning they require less maintenance than a CO2 laser. Additionally, fiber lasers can be designed to be more user–friendly, allowing the user to make adjustments and repairs without the help of a technician.
CO2 lasers are gas lasers that utilize a gas mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and helium as the active medium. These lasers are more complicated than fiber lasers and require more components, making them more difficult to maintain. Additionally, CO2 lasers are more prone to breakdowns and require more frequent maintenance. Repairs and adjustments of CO2 lasers must be done
The answer to which laser is safer largely depends on the application for which it is being used. Both fiber lasers and CO2 lasers can be hazardous to the eyes and skin, and both types of lasers require safety protocols to be in place in order to protect those operating and near the laser.
Fiber lasers are generally considered the safest of the two lasers because they emit a much lower level of radiation than CO2 lasers. This is due to the fact that the wavelength of a fiber laser is significantly shorter than that of a CO2 laser, which reduces the risk of eye and skin damage.
Additionally, the shorter wavelength of a fiber laser means that less energy is required for the same task, which results in less heat buildup, making it much safer to use. CO2 lasers, on the other hand, have a much longer wavelength, so more energy is required for the same task.
This in turn produces higher levels of radiation, making it more hazardous to use. Additionally, because of the high energy level of the laser, there is a greater risk of overheating, which could cause a fire or other safety hazards. Overall, the fiber laser is generally considered to be the safer of the two lasers, due to its lower radiation levels.
CO2 lasers are better than fiber lasers when cutting materials that are thermally sensitive, such as acrylic and wood. CO2 lasers have a longer wavelength, which means they can cut materials more slowly and with more precision.
Additionally, CO2 lasers are better at cutting thicker materials, with more power and accuracy. The laser beam produced by a CO2 laser is also more adjustable, allowing the user to adjust the beam to the specific material being cut. Fiber lasers, on the other hand, are better suited for thinner materials, such as metals, as they can be used to cut faster and with more precision.
Fiber lasers are also more efficient, meaning they use less energy and require less maintenance than CO2 lasers. However, they are not as suitable for cutting thermally sensitive materials, as the laser beam can heat up the material too quickly.