Recently, there has been a significant increase in the number of users of air-assisted laser cutting and engraving. Laser engraver air assist systems are very effective and efficient for all laser cutters and engravers, preventing burns and scorching and saving money in the long run.
What is Laser Engraving Air Assist?
Air assist in a laser cutter helps the machine achieve better engraving or laser cutting results by minimizing heat around the laser head, dissipating heat where the laser touches the workpiece, removing debris around the contact point, preventing the workpiece combustion.
How does laser air assist work?
It has been discovered that CO2 laser engravers require more than just a beam to engrave successfully. They also need to inject auxiliary gas nozzles on the laser head to complement the operation. This convergence initiates an exothermic reaction. An exothermic reaction is a chemical reaction that releases energy through light or heat. Using nitrogen, oxygen, or pressurized air helps transfer heat more efficiently than beams alone. With this, you can get the job done faster, cleaner and more smoothly.
For many years, oxygen was the most commonly used gas assist gas for laser engraving. It was later replaced by nitrogen, which was found to produce cooler engravings with cleaner edges. It's a perfect choice for industries where aesthetics and edge quality are paramount. However, pressurized air has been found to be a more economical option, with efficiencies comparable to nitrogen and oxygen.
This is not to say that pressurized air can completely replace nitrogen or oxygen. After all, air is made up of 80% nitrogen and the rest is mostly oxygen. Air-assisted laser cutting is designed to take advantage of this high nitrogen concentration while taking advantage of the more dilute gas.
Initially, mode quality was a major setback when compressed air was used for CO2 lasers, but over time this limitation has been minimized. In modern times, air assist has improved the ability of lasers to engrave some hard materials, including stainless steel and aluminum.
Some of the benefits of air-assisted laser engraving include:
For businesses using CO2 laser engravers, air assist with compressed air can provide a significant return on investment. For many laser businesses, upgrading air assist for laser cutting is a more cost-effective way to expand laser cutting capabilities, increase maximum cut thickness, and achieve cleaner, less charred cuts.
The injected air quickly dissipates the extreme heat of the CO2 laser, reducing or eliminating oxide formation - the cause of scorch or burn marks on your precious laser cut products. Fighting coke at the source is far more effective than spending time on secondary clean-up operations.
reduce manufacturing cost
Pressurized air costs much less than nitrogen and oxygen. In some cases, the cost of using nitrogen or oxygen alone can account for as much as 90% of total operating costs. In fact, the cost of upgrading your OMTech's Laser Air Assist is much lower than expected. With a fairly simple upgrade kit, you can hook up a shop air compressor to create an industrial-grade air assist to enhance laser cutting.
Air assist can speed up your entire engraving operation. This is demonstrated by laser engraver experiments on all materials and thicknesses.
Although pressurized air is not the best gas for all laser cutting purposes, it does help improve the quality of the laser cut edge. For most powder coatings, wood, acrylics and other materials, air-assisted laser engraving produces very satisfactory edge quality.
Using laser air assist also reduces the risk of fire from debris, as potentially combustible materials are quickly blown away from the laser beam and the excess heat it generates.
Possible risks of not using air assist
When your laser engraver is running, it produces some debris as well as fumes from the heat. This can be very dangerous as debris can start a fire, creating a fire risk.
Smoke from heat has the following negative effects:
The smoke interacts with the beam energy in the direction of the laser, reducing the overall intensity and creating inconsistencies.
A lot of smoke can create residue around the laser engraver and anywhere else on the laser optics.
Smoke can create discoloration, residues and chemicals that can come into contact with your workpiece and make it less pleasing to the eyes and respiratory system.