How to Keep Your Industrial Laser Process Running Smoothly

Lasers are made of matter – of stuff.

And anything made of matter will degrade with time.

So if the laser degradation and eventual failure is inevitable, what can be done?

The question is how you can catch your laser before it degrades too much, to the point that your process is no longer working?

First, let’s consider how lasers interact with material.  Whether you’re cutting or welding, dealing with plastic, wood, or metal, the basic idea is the same:  The power density of the laser is the most important value when considering what effect the laser will have on your work piece.

[math]text{Power Density} = frac{W}{cm^2}[/math]

That’s a pretty simple formula.  It consists of two parts: power (W) and beam size (cm2).  Each of these can be measured – and should be, to make sure your laser is still acting like it did when the process was developed and when it worked properly.

You can measure the power with a laser power meter and the beam size with a beam profiler.

As you can see from this simple diagram, each stage of the laser source and delivery optics involves many parts, each of which is made of matter.  Any time the laser touches something, that’s an opportunity for the laser power to decrease or the beam size to change.

If the power goes down or the beam size increases, this will reduce your laser’s effect on the material.

Furthermore, if the focus spot location changes, this is again effectively the same as an increase in beam size.  The laser will not perform as you want it to.

Especially as you get closer to the laser nozzle, laser parts are becoming exposed to harsh industrial conditions.  Laser measurement (power and beam size) is critical for making sure that your laser will continue to act as it should: day in and day out.

I could never put it better than John McCauley, our product specialist:

“There are many challenges that come with laser material processing.  Understanding how your laser is performing shouldn’t be one of them.”

Want to hear more about this?  Check out John McCauley’s webinar recording at Industrial Laser Solutions.

Flickr creative commons image via Lauren Wellicome

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