Glossary of laser cutting terms - C. From Tesko Laser, providing laser cutting and metal fabricating services. Tesko Laser Division - photos
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Glossary of laser cutting terms - C


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 carbide (WC).


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.

CNC Controlled

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.

CO2 Laser

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 Laser.


Coated Steels

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.

Copper/Copper Alloys

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.

Cut Edge

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 gas.

Cut Termination

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.

Cut Quality

A CO2 laser will produce a cut quality similar to a good quality milled edge for mild steels.

Cut Width

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 Kerf.

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'.


Cutting Gas

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.

Cutting Pattern

The pattern programmed into the laser to produce the final profile required.

Cutting Zone

The area of the material that is actually being cut by the laser and which is moved around the workpiece to produce the desired profile.


An abbreviation for continuous wave, the continuous-emission mode of a laser as opposed to pulsed operation. See CO2 Laser and Pulsed Laser.

Cycle Time

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 load/off-load time.


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