Air Products

Protecting your investment in laser technology

Consistency, efficiency and productivity are critical in manufacturing and laser technology meets all these requirements. But the technology can be costly, so how can we best protect that investment?

 laser technology

CO2 lasers provide incredibly accurate cutting and welding with a margin of error so low it's measured in microns, but that accuracy comes at a cost. Lasers for welding and cutting can be huge machines, often a full installation may be up to ten metres long, and they need to be mounted so that they're perfectly level.

 

So not only are you looking at spending possibly up to and beyond half a million pounds to buy the equipment, you also need to shoulder the costs of material storage and installation.

 

However, that upfront investment is often worth it because most modern machines manage such a wide range of tasks autonomously, from welding and cutting sheet metal or pipe, to pressing, folding and manipulation. Of course, you still need operators, but the machinery will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

When a machine requires this level of investment and is so productive, maintaining it effectively becomes vital. Unfortunately, we do come across simple operational anomalies that can drive up maintenance costs significantly.

 

One example is in the use of resonator gases. CO2 cutting lasers apply electrical excitation to a lasing medium by the use of resonator gases to add power and control to that energy.

 

The lasing medium - CO2 - is stimulated by high energy electrical discharge. Nitrogen - is used to transfer energy to the CO2 by molecular excitement, adding power to the beam.

 

An unwanted by-product of these processes is heat, so another resonator gas - Helium – is used to act as a heat sink. From this process a laser beam is produced.

 

resonator gases

Lasers require the resonator gases to be very pure. If the gases are even slightly impure, the beam will lose power and become unfocused, meaning it is not operating at optimal efficiency.

 

A poor beam may also contaminate the resonator cavity and damage the mirrors and lenses, resulting in unplanned maintenance and, therefore, costly downtime for repairs.

Laser manufacturers specify a minimum purity for the CO2, Nitrogen and Helium resonator gases, and they should always be supplied in accordance with that minimum specification.

These minimums are usually grade 4.5 for CO2 (99.995% purity), grade 5 for Nitrogen (99.999% purity) and grade 4.6 for Helium (99.996% purity).

 

But this specification is a minimum. Operators should be opting for gases of higher purity, ensuring high beam efficiency, not risking lower productivity and higher potential maintenance costs.

Want to know more?

Please contact us on 0800 389 0202, visit www.airproducts.co.uk/laser or sign up to our newsletter for our latest updates here.

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