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A Look at Common Laser Types

Consider the differences between most common types of laser systems and their unique advantages

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There are a number of laser machines on the market today. The essential differences among them are the laser source they use. The main types are CO2 lasers, fiber lasers, and vanadate lasers. Each laser type has its own advantages and disadvantages and is suited for use on different materials.

CO2 lasers (gas lasers): CO2 lasers are gas lasers that are based on a carbon dioxide gas mixture, which is stimulated electrically. With a wavelength of 10.6 micrometers, they are mainly suited for working on non-metallic materials and on most plastics. CO2 lasers have a relatively high efficiency and feature a good beam quality. They are the most widely used laser types.

CO2 lasers are best suited for the following materials: Wood, acrylic, glass, paper, textiles, plastics, foils and films, leather, and stone.

Fiber lasers: Fiber lasers belong to the solid-state laser group. They generate a laser beam by means of the “seed” laser and amplify it in specially designed glass fibers, which are supplied with energy via pump diodes. With a wavelength of 1.064 micrometers, fiber lasers produce an extremely small focal diameter. As a result, their intensity is up to 100 times higher than that of CO2 lasers with the same emitted average power.

Fiber lasers are optimally suited for metal marking methods such as annealing, metal engraving, and high-contrast plastic markings. Fiber lasers are generally maintenance-free and feature a long service life of at least 25,000 laser hours.

Fiber lasers are best suited for the following materials: metals, coated metals, and plastics.

Crystal lasers: Like fiber lasers, crystal lasers belong to the solid-state lasers. Lasers for marking applications are typically pumped by diodes (by flash lamps in the past). The most common laser types in this category are nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) and nd:YVO (neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate), named after the doping element neodymium and the carrier crystal. With 1.064 micrometers, crystal lasers have the same wavelength as fiber lasers and are also suited for marking metals and plastics.

Unlike fiber lasers, crystal laser types include the relatively expensive pump diodes, which are wearing parts. They must be replaced after approximately 8,000 to max 15,000 laser hours. The crystal itself also has a shorter service life than a fiber laser.

These laser types are suited for the following materials: metals, coated metals, plastics, and also for ceramic (to some extent).

Josh Stephens Lasers Plus

Josh Stephens

Josh Stephens is the owner of Lasers Plus. Formerly, he was the lead applications expert for a large laser manufacturer. He has been in the industry for over seven years.

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