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Fiber Laser VS CO2 Laser: 12 Detailed Comparisons

The rapid development of laser cutting technology is mainly controlled by two main methods: CO2 laser cutting and fiber laser cutting. Both processes can provide manufacturers of manufacturing metal foils in all sizes with higher accuracy and versatility, and the technology is developing in the direction of improving accuracy, easier to use, and greater flexibility.

However, choosing the right automatic laser cutting process is mainly based on the needs, applications, and evaluation of the long-term vision of different industries. Factors to consider include the type and thickness of materials, accuracy, productivity, procurement budget, and operating costs.

What Is Fiber Laser

Fiber laser cutter uses a row of diodes to generate a beam of light, which is then focused through the fiber. In general, cutting speeds using fibers are much faster, and this process can produce fine cuts with precise quality. However, it also has some disadvantages. One is that the more complicated working principle may reduce the cutting speed. The second is the need to take special safety measures to prevent long-term eye damage.

In short, high power fiber lasers are produced by diode groups. Through optical fibers similar to data transmission, light is guided and amplified. After leaving the cable, the amplified light will be collimated or straightened, and then focused by the lens onto the material to be cut.

What Is CO2 Laser

A CO2 laser is a system of gas, which contains a mixture of electrically stimulated carbon dioxide. They are best suited for processing non-metallic materials and most plastics. The CO2 laser working system is the most efficient beam quality and therefore the most widely used laser type.

The working technology of CO2 laser cutting is to focus a high-intensity infrared laser beam through a series of mirrors and then emit it through a nozzle. It was first introduced more than 50 years ago and is still the traditional pillar of the industry.

Fiber Laser VS CO2 Laser

There are several factors to consider when choosing between fiber laser head and CO2 laser head. Although some factors may be more important depending on your specific application industry, these factors need to be considered when making such a significant investment in the future of the enterprise. Next, let us discuss the difference between fiber and CO2 lasers system.

Different Wavelengths

  • The wavelength of a fiber laser system is usually 1,060 nm.

  • The wavelength of a CO2 laser system is usually 10,600 nm.

Different Processing Materials

  • Fiber laser technology are ideal for processing the following materials: metal, coated metal, plastic.

  • The CO2 laser technology is ideal for processing the following materials: wood, acrylic, glass, paper, textiles, plastics, foils and films, leather, stone.

Different Service Life

  • Fiber laser systems have a long service life, at least 25,000 laser hours, and they are usually maintenance-free machines.

  • The accessories of CO2 laser need maintenance, so its service life is short.

Different Power Consumption

  • When operating at maximum power, a 4kW fiber and cooler will consume about 18 kW of energy.

  • When operating at maximum power, a 4KW CO2 laser and cooler will consume about 70 kW of energy.

Compared with the 4 kW CO2 laser, the focused beam of the 2 kW fiber laser has a power density that is 5 times higher than that of the CO2 laser.

This is because the high power fiber laser has obvious advantages in energy utilization. Generally, the wall plug efficiency of CO2 laser power is 10% (the energy conversion efficiency of the system to convert electrical energy into light energy), but the efficiency of the optical fiber can exceed 25%. This means that less input power is required to produce the final result with output power.

Different Operating Costs

  • Fiber laser consumes less power, so the operating cost of the machine is lower.

  • CO2 lasers consume much more power than fiber lasers, resulting in higher operating costs.

Different Maintenance Costs

  • Without a beam path transmission system and its extensive use of mirrors, bellows, and gases, fiber lasers (especially solid-state resonator types) would greatly reduce the amount of maintenance required, and therefore reduce the costs associated with maintenance.

  • CO2 lasers are sensitive machines that need to be aligned, so if they are not properly aligned, they are usually repaired by professionals. This can lead to longer downtimes when the laser cannot be produced normally. All of the above components of the beam path transmission system require additional maintenance, all of which result in high maintenance costs.

Different Production Flexibility

  • The light in the fiber laser head can be more easily transferred to the movable focusing element, which is important for laser cutting. 

  • Light waves from CO2 laser head are easily scattered.

When we add the splitter to the optical cable, we can transfer the beam to different parts of the production workshop. Using this split beam, multiple tools can be used simultaneously to perform multiple functions, such as cutting, drilling, and welding, all from a single power source.

Different Cutting Speed

  • Thin Material

The fiber laser working speed is twice or three times that of the standard material. Compared to the same 4 kW CO2 laser technology machine, fiber lasers are three times faster in straight-line cutting at 1 mm low-carbon, galvanized or stainless steel, and twice as fast at 2 mm.

  • Thicker Materials

When thick materials need to be cut, fiber laser systems may not have an advantage. And one of the advantages of CO2 laser is that it can obtain surface treatment in thicker materials (especially stainless steel and aluminum).

Different Machine Warm-up Time

  • Fiber lasers do not require any additional warm-up time.

  • Carbon dioxide lasers require an average warm-up time of 10 minutes.

Different Edge Qualities

  • As the thickness of the processed material increases, the fiber laser machine processed material will produce rougher edges. One factor is the higher auxiliary gas consumption. Fiber will consume up to 30% of auxiliary gas. The main reason for this is the small spot size.

  • The CO2 laser machine can produce better edge quality on thick plate stainless steel and aluminum workpieces. At all thicknesses including stainless steel and aluminum, CO2 laser can be cut with a higher cutting edge quality. As the thickness increases, the difference also increases.

Different Security Measures

  • The wavelength of fiber lasers is much more dangerous and special precautions must be taken. And special safety measures are needed to prevent long-term damage to the eyes. This is why the fiber laser system is completely enclosed and belongs to Class I.

  • Relatively speaking, CO2 laser systems are less dangerous and there is no threat from wavelengths.

Different Ability To Deal With Reflective Metals

  • Fiber lasers can cut reflective materials without worrying about damaging the reflective capabilities of the machine. This makes it possible to cut copper, brass, and aluminum without any problems.

  • When operating a CO2 laser, the characteristics of the reflective material need to be considered.

Whether to choose fiber laser or CO2 laser depends on your specific business goals. How much daily output do you want to achieve? Want more cost-effectiveness? Determine your own goals, and then consider the advantages and disadvantages of the two machines, including the scope of application, output, operating costs, maintenance costs, investment costs, etc.

If you are looking for a professional fiber laser cutting machine manufacturer, then Winying’s experts can provide you with some business assistance. We know the applications, their optimal application range, and provide you with the solutions needed for fiber laser cutting technology.