Why Air Assist is Important for Laser Cutting Machines
When you're new to the laser world, it's nice to have a built-in piece of hardware in your laser cutter to help you - Atomstack Air Assist. It is a concentrated airflow source located on the laser head, between the laser beam and the material you need to cut or engrave. Does "cooling" a laser beam seem counterintuitive? Let's explore the capabilities of Air Assist and why it's a feature mostly included in high-quality laser cutting and engraving machines.
The air assist feature comes from an air compressor, which is similar in power to a can of compressed air, just more controlled and dedicated to laser engraving projects. This air is blown through the material during the entire process of cutting or engraving with a laser. As shown, constant air flow creates a cooling barrier between the laser beam and your material to keep the laser at a safe operating temperature. In some usage scenarios, without air assistance, the laser may heat up to the point of causing a fire. Therefore, a key purpose behind the air assist feature of a laser cutter is safety. Most higher performance, high quality CO2 laser cutters will be equipped with air assist.
Open diode laser systems are generally not powerful enough for deep cutting or engraving, so they generally do not require this type of feature or this type of laser cooling.
How does the air keep the laser cool enough?
Air assist works with a water cooling system. The water will flow through the closed channel in the laser tube and prevent the glass from shattering.
Our lasers have a clear, intuitive touchscreen that notifies you if the water cooling assembly is not engaged. The water drop icon will appear red on the screen to prevent the risk of overheating.
How else can Air Assist help?
In addition to being a safety feature, the integration of a powerful air assist function helps reduce warping or charring of the material by the high power laser. We have a more in-depth explanation of how to avoid charring when comparing power and current, but the key theme is to use the lowest power setting needed to get the job done. Higher power is sometimes required to achieve a clean cut, and the air assist feature can help ensure the cut isn't obscured by deeply charred edges or burn marks.
What happens if I turn off air assist? Does it always have to be turned on?
Air assist can be turned on and off depending on the software and the degree of control the laser company gives you as the end user. Some manufacturers will choose to disable this feature, or not offer it in the first place. In the case of Retina Engrave software, you can choose to turn air assist on or off at any time, but it is recommended to keep it on for most jobs. The air assist function is especially useful for cutting paper, as the air assist function blows the paper out from under the laser head.
A fully functional air assist unit helps ensure your investment is not compromised by damaged laser tubes or wasted material from charred designs. In order for your air assist unit to function fully, users should follow routine maintenance procedures that include cleaning lenses and mirrors with a lens wipe (isopropyl alcohol), keeping the laser bed free of piles of debris, and blowing out any fume extraction system filters device.
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Laser engraving is a popular option that provides a permanent and legible marking on an object through etching, ablation, or deep laser engraving. It is similar to laser marking, but the resulting appearance differs due to the depth of laser penetration.
Laser engraving is commonly used to create permanent serial markings on substrates made of: Metal, Wood, Plastic, Leather.
Benefits Of Laser Engraving Over Traditional Processes
Compared to manual engraving:
Minimally Invasive: Laser engraving can be performed at a range of depths without any direct contact at all. Surface marks can even be done on stainless steel with no depth. Overall, lasers are less damaging than manual engraving and keep the substrate material’s physical integrity intact.
Precise: Lasers provide a level of control that’s impossible to achieve manually. Compared to hand-engraving, the process is swift, clean, and highly repeatable, with little room for human error.
Versatile: A single laser engraving machine can be used to create a host of different designs with only minimal calibration. They can also produce exceptionally complex patterns.
Affordable: On average, laser devices last longer than other engraving machines and require less maintenance, resulting in savings that can be passed along to the consumer.
Fast: Lasers can be programmed to render virtually any design in a matter of moments. Because the process is automated, it’s easy to scale production runs as needed according to demand.
Long-Lasting: Laser-engraved designs are permanent but can wear over time, depending on the substrate material that’s used. Soft metals, for example, may experience more signs of wear than hardwood. In general, however, laser-engraved designs tend to have a longer lifespan compared to other engraving methods.