Laser engraver air assist | How does it help?

A laser engraver air assist is an added feature that gives a steady flow of free air to the laser head so that it can give more oxygen into the cutting point and remove the smoke/debris coming from the laser engraving process.

An air assist not only removes dust, it actively helps the laser head to burn the cutting material so that the said precision is achieved.

Precision refers to the laser engraving accuracy which needs the active help of the air assist. Alternatively, if there’s debris near the laser head’s focal point, it will be tough for the laser beam to engrave the given design accurately.

In short, the role of the laser engraver air assist can be summarized as below:

  • Provide steady air flow to either oxygenate or remove the dust
  • Actively helps to minimize the chance of material igniting
  • Keeps the laser head/lens clean (apparently increases the laser’s life)

Here’s a before-after comparison of laser engraving with and without the air assist.

Before after air assist

Air assist keeps the laser head cool

By providing a steady airflow, an air assist keeps the laser temperature cool. As a consequence, the laser itself lasts longer and the material engraving appears super clean and accurate.

For example, A 50-watt CO2 laser would cut or engrave any material except stainless steel. While working, it will reach up to 100-500 degrees Celsius at the point of contact (depending on the power usage).

An air assist system will significantly help in keeping the laser head cool. since it works by blowing a constant stream of air on the point where laser beam gets connected with the material.

As a consequence, continuous movement of the air carries out the heat coming from the laser head and goes outside by the duct fan.

Moreover, such continuous airflow reduces any risk of fire igniting if the material is flammable, such as leather or fabric.

Air assist ensures better precision

Precision is a measurement of the laser cutting & engraving accuracy. As said earlier, air assist contributes to better precision.

For instance, a laser engraving without air assistance would have debris and occasional over-flaming during its engraving process. Since the debris does not automatically go away, it will interrupt engravings nearby. Also, due to not having continuous airflow, casual flaming would leave smoke markings near the workplace and will interrupt the entire beauty of the engraving.

Here’s a scenario analysis of laser cutting using different air-assist nozzles and pressure.

Air assist with different nozzle

So, this is clear that the more steady airflow your laser machine gets, the finer laser cuts it will deliver.

Most importantly, the air protects the working pieces from edge burn/smoke as you can see in the above picture.

When you may not need the air assist?

The need of an air assist would depend on the material you engrave and the design that you are going to engrave.

Let’s say, if you are going to engrave rubber, it is highly recommended to turn on the laser engraver’s air assist since the rubber is flammable.

Even if you engrave fabric with a CO2 laser, the job would be impossible without air assistance because the fabric is highly flammable and the laser heat often causes edge burn.

Alternatively, if you are doing a wood laser engraving with big pattern, air assistance may be skipped only if the laser engraving points are far away from the others. However, we strongly recommend turning on the air assist kit as it does not have any negative impact at all.

Most importantly, if you are using portable lasers such as xTool F1 or the Atomstack, air assist would not be required as the laser machine most often fires the infrared lasers which do not create sudden fire. Alternatively, such laser power is easily absorbed by the suitable materials.

Do all laser engravers include air assist?

Most of the modern laser engravers would arrive including the air assist kit as it directly affects the end results. For example, if you are buying the xTool P2, or the xTool S1, there is way to skip the air assist kit ass both the lasers are fully enclosed with all necessary supporting equipment.

Consider the following points before you buy

It does not matter if you are buying an air assist for your existing laser machine or buying a laser machine that includes the AIS assist kit. Make sure to notice the following things before you make your purchase.

Check the nozzle size. A standard nozzle size is approximately 4mm or 1/8 inch in diameter. This size typically provides a balanced airflow. However, depending on the task, you may need another nozzle. So, make sure the other nozzle fits with the air pipe.

For most of the open frame lasers such as xTool D1 or the Atezr P10, the soft rubber nozzle stays outside of the machine and sometimes it gets melted by the laser itself. So, properly notice if the laser machine has a viable organizer and the length of the pipe is big enough to be organized on the gantry. It needs to be big as the gantry continuously moves from one corner to the other.

Lastly, most of the laser manufacturers do not provide separate adapters for the air assist kit. They prefer a conversion of the main adopter cable instead. In some cases, you may need a separate adopter if the conversion cable does not work. So, ask the manufacturer if they are going to give both or not. It is always safe to keep one extra adopter in case the conversion cable is damaged.

If you are buying a new air assist kit for your existing laser machine, consider the following points:

  • Check the compatibility. Sometimes, the third-party air assistance does not fit with the laser machine. Some Chinese laser heads won’t even have an air plug-in nozzle.
  • Make sure the air assist kit provides adequate pressure and flow adjustments to meet your needs.
  • Make sure to get the proper nozzle size. Also, consider a nozzle made of a durable material as it will stay close to the powerful laser beam.

Conclusion

Using air assist is always a clever idea if you are laser engraving any material. There’s no disadvantage to using airflow. Its advantages will always outweigh the cost and efforts associated.

Ethan Robert
Ethan Robert

Hi, I'm Ethan.

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, I started knowing the CNC and that becomes my passion.

Earlier, I had fascination of 3d printers, Laser cutters and other CNC machines. Later on, I started analyzing those machine and started blogging on my known things by a different way.

I aim to assist you with the insights of 3d printer, laser engravers and computer printers with the help that you save your money and take the right decision before you purchase any machine.

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