COMPLETE GUIDE TO AIR ASSIST FOR LASER CUTTING & ENGRAVING
Recently, there has been a significant increase in the number of users that are embracing air assist for laser cutting and engraving. The reason for this is not far-fetched, laser air assist systems are incredibly effective and efficient for all laser cutters and engravers, preventing burns and chars, and saving money in the long term.
WHAT IS LASER ENGRAVING AIR ASSIST FOR?
Air assist for laser cutters helps the machine achieve better engraving or laser cutting results by minimizing heat around the laser head, dissipating heat where the laser contacts the workpiece, removing debris from around the contact point, and preventing the workpiece from burning.
THE BENEFITS OF LASER AIR ASSIST
Using air assist for laser cutting and engraving has been in vogue for nearly 20 years, and has continually grown in popularity among CO2 laser cutters. Initially, mode quality was a major setback when compressed air was used for CO2 lasers, but this limitation has been minimized with time. In these modern days, air assist has improved the capability of laser engraving some tough materials, including stainless steel and aluminum. Some of the benefits of air-assisted laser engraving include:
Using pressurized air for an air assist comes with a substantial return on investment for businesses that utilize CO2 laser engravers. For many laser businesses, upgrading the air assist for laser cutting is the more cost-efficient way to expand laser cutting capabilities, increase the maximum cutting thickness, and achieve cleaner cuts with less char.
Injected air quickly dissipates the extreme heat of CO2 lasers, reducing or eliminating oxide formation — the cause of char or burn marks to appear on your precious laser cut products. Fighting char at its source is much more efficient than spending time on secondary clean-up operations.
LOWER PRODUCTION COST
Compared to nitrogen and oxygen, pressurized air is far less costly. In some cases, the cost of using nitrogen or oxygen gas alone could make up 90% of the overall operating cost. In fact, upgrading your Monport's laser air assist is far less costly than expected. With a fairly simple upgrade kit, you can attach a shop air compressor to create an industrial-grade air assist for laser cutting enhancements.
Air assist can speed up your whole engraving operation. This is proven by laser engraving experiments on the complete spectrum of materials and thickness. According to a publication in The Fabricator (January 2017), tests have shown that nitrogen creates quicker engraving for materials thicker than ten gauge, but pressurized air is approximately 3% faster than nitrogen in the mild steel range of 0.135 inches and thinner. In addition, it is around 22% quicker for stainless steel from 0.750 to 0.036 inches, and 14% faster for aluminum in the range of 0.190 to 0.032 inches.
HIGH EDGE QUALITY
Although pressurized air is not the best gas for all laser cutting purposes, it does help enhance laser-cut edge quality. Air-assisted laser engraving produces an edge quality more than satisfactory for most powder coatings, woods, acrylics, and other materials.
Using laser air assist also reduces the risk of debris causing a fire, as possibly combustible materials are quickly blown away from the laser beam and the excess heat it produces.