Glossary of laser cutting terms - C
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CAD (and CAD / CAM)
Stands for Computer Aided Design. CAD
software is the software that you use to make drawings of
parts. CAM stands for Computer Aided Manufacturing.
CAM software is used to make tool paths. Often CAD and CAM
software are included in the same software package for convenience.
Ceramics are hard, high melting point materials, produced
by the reaction of metals with elements such as oxygen, nitrogen,
and carbon. Common industrial ceramics include alumina (Al2O3),
titanium carbide (TiC), titanium nitride (TiN), and tungsten
This is an acronym for Computer Numerical Control.
In basic terms, a CNC machine has a computer that is controlling
the machine's motion. For lasers, CNC is used to control motion
tables or for positioning the workpiece beneath the focused
laser beam. See G-Code.
Computer Numerically Controlled machines are the backbone
of an automated factory. Sophisticated CNC controlled equipment
measures and controls key variables to keep them on target
and within set control limits providing extremely accurate
and repeatable processing. See G-Code.
A widely used laser in which the primary lasing medium is
carbon dioxide gas. The output wavelength is 10.6 micrometers
in the far infrared spectrum. It can be operated in either
continuous wave (CW) or pulsed. Beam transmission
is via mirrors. Power can be up to 40,000 watts. CO2
lasers are routinely used to cut metals, polymers, wood-based
products, and ceramics. See CW and Pulsed
Mild or carbon steels that are produced with coatings such
as paint, rust, zinc plating, mill scale, or identification
marks. These will result in reduced cutting speeds and increased
dross on the bottom of the cutting edge. Coatings such as
cadmium plating and PVC based paints should be avoided since
they produce toxic fumes during the laser cutting process.
Metals that display a very high reflectivity to laser light
and possess high thermal conductivities. Both of these properties
reduce the cutting speeds and the maximum thickness of material
that can be cut. The less copper an alloy contains, the faster
it will cut. The most common copper alloys are commercially
pure copper and brass.
Ability of the laser beam to not spread significantly (low
divergence) with distance.
Optical device consisting of two lenses separated by the
sum of their focal length. It is used to provide desired beam
diameter to meet specific beam delivery requirements.
A solid with a regular array of atoms. Sapphire (Ruby Laser)
and YAG (Nd:YAG
laser) are two crystalline materials used as laser sources.
A term used to describe the physical edge of the material
cut by a laser.
Cut Initiation (Piercing)
Carefully controlled hole drilling using the laser in its
pulsed mode and using air or oxygen as the drilling assist
Meeting or crossing a previously cut line usually completes
the cut. In the case of all but the thinnest sections, the
final millimeter or so of the cut will have a discontinuity
of quality. This feature is a result of a change in the material
removal mechanism as the top leading edge of the cut zone
finishes cutting before the trailing lower edge.
A CO2 laser will produce a cut quality similar to a good
quality milled edge for mild steels.
The width of the laser cut in a material. Typically, a cut
width will be between 0.1 and 0.4 mm (0.004 - 0.016).
The cut width is dependent upon the properties of the material
being cut, the workpiece thickness, the lens focal length,
and finally, the type of cutting gas used in the laser. See
Cutting Bed Size
The size of the area on a laser cutting machine that can
be used to place the item to be cut. The larger the bed size,
the larger an item to be cut can be. A common bed size for
many laser-cutters is 4' x 8'. Some are as large as 5' x 10'.
Types of gases used to assist the laser cutting process.
Most common cutting gases include oxygen, nitrogen, air, and
argon, although others are also used. The selection of the
best cutting gas is a function of the material to be cut.
The pattern programmed into the laser to produce the final
The area of the material that is actually being cut by the
laser and which is moved around the workpiece to produce the
An abbreviation for continuous wave, the continuous-emission
mode of a laser as opposed to pulsed operation. See CO2
Laser and Pulsed
Time required for execution of a laser process. It is shown
on an Application Report to provide an indication of the throughput
possible in production, exclusive of index time and workpiece
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