The manufacturing industry often uses CO2 lasers because they have been around a lot longer than fiber laser systems but there are many other benefits as well.
CO2 lasers can cut varying materials and thicknesses without challenge such as cutting up to one-inch thick stainless steel. For shops that focus on custom fabrication, the CO2 laser offers the most flexibility. CO2 lasers create the beam using a gas as a gain medium, and the beam produced is of a 10.6 micron wavelength. The energy represents heat or infrared radiation. CO2 lasers convert electric power into heat energy with approximately 10 per cent becoming the actual laser beam.
“The primary advantage of a CO2 over a fiber laser is its ability to cut thicker stainless steel with smoother edge quality than what a fiber can do,” states Jason Hillenbrand, laser product manager for Amada America Inc. From Amada’s stand point the real advantage is the fact that the CO2 option can cut thick mild steel with a bit better edge quality as well as its speed. When processing stainless steel the CO2 laser produces a substantially more cosmetically appealing edge.
Processing stainless steel with a solid-state laser produces a more striated edge and the stainless steel has a lower burr limit. Fabricators who process high quantities of stainless steel, or who are especially concerned with the edge quality, could benefit from using a CO2 laser system.