The first laser was built by Hughes Research Laboratories’ Theodore H. Maiman in 1960.
The first successfully fired coherent light laser, Maiman’s was a solid-state pulsed laser. Since then, a tremendous volume of innovations have followed, including the 1967 invention of the first laser designed for industrial laser processing. That laser, designed and built by Peter Houldcroft, was an oxygen gas-assisted CO2 laser that successfully cut a 1mm thick sheet of steel.
Today, despite there being a wide range of laser types performing a wide range of industrial processes, there remains a number of common misconceptions, particularly about laser cutting.
Common Laser Cutting Misconceptions
One of the most common misconceptions about laser cutting technology is that laser cutters are volume limited. Many people believe, mistakenly, that laser cutting is good for one-off prototypes but not full-scale production runs.
The fact is that advances in laser processing technology have made laser processes such as laser cutting very expedient and that most manufacturers equipped with them use the tools for full-scale production. This is true for 2- and 3-axis gantry type lasers, as well as for galvanometer-type lasers, which use mirrors to direct the laser beam and are generally faster in a small area.
Another common misconception is that laser cutting machines are an unnecessary workplace danger. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Laser manufacturers design their systems from the ground up with safety as their primary concern. When the systems are installed properly, laser cutting is so safe that they are often an even safer option than comparable tool-based systems.
Lasers have been used for material cutting and other industrial processes successfully for over 40 years and have proven themselves over that time. Aside from being both efficient and safe, they can also be simpler to use — they don’t require the complex tools and dies that traditional methods do and because they are non-contact there is no tool wear to impact the cut quality.
Benefits of Laser Cutting
Laser cutting, as with all industrial laser processes, provides a tremendous number of benefits. They are safe, efficient, fast, and scalable to full-scale production — but these benefits only scratch the surface of what laser cutting can offer your next project.
Exclusively CNC controlled, laser cutting systems can create cuts with unparalleled precision, including very narrow widths, and hold the tightest tolerances. Setup is quick, and the cuts are reliable and easily repeatable. Laser cutting systems are also capable of cutting shapes with very complex geometries, past the capabilities of other machining methods.
Despite the power they create — industrial lasers generally operate in the 10 to 3000 W range — laser cutting systems produce relatively low heat levels, which minimizes material warping, and requires less input energy than standard machinery.
With no contact between the workpiece and the cutting apparatus, laser cutting systems eliminate the risk of material contamination. When considering that laser cutting can be used for a huge variety of materials — including a range of plastics and metals, rubbers, wood, ceramic, and more — this becomes very important.
Laser Cutting with Laserage
Laserage Technology Corporation, a globally recognized laser processing leader, maintains modern, state-of-the-art laser processing facilities, carrying ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certifications, in both Waukegan, IL, and Milpitas, CA. We use a number of laser processing systems, including custom-designed CO2, ND:YAG, fiber, disk, and Femto laser systems.
To learn more about Laserage, our laser cutting capabilities, and how you can get the most out of our services, download our free eBook, “Design for Manufacturability: Maximizing the Advantages of Laser Cutting,” today.
Lasers are an incredibly versatile tool, especially in the aerospace industry. Though they are most commonly thought of as a cutting medium, they can actually perform a wide variety of functions for various applications.
Aerospace Capabilities of Laser Processing
One unique aerospace application for a non-cutting laser capability is hermetic laser sealing of electronic and optoelectronic packages.
Of the utmost importance for the proper functioning of planes, jets, and helicopters, electronic and optoelectronic packages are found throughout the electrical systems, critical and secondary alike, of aircraft. Packaging is used to protect delicate electronics from a wide range of potentially harmful elements, including:
- Physical and mechanical damage caused in flight or during maintenance
- Electrostatic discharge
- Sudden or extreme fluctuations in temperature
- Electric and static electric discharge
- Radio frequency noise
- Airborne contaminants
Laser hermetic sealing is a highly specialized form of laser welding, developed specifically for high sensitivity applications such as package sealing. At Laserage, all of our package hermetic sealing is performed in our inert environment weld chamber — the enclosed laser equipment allows us to achieve precision seals while maintaining unparalleled contamination prevention.
While package hermetic welding is an excellent example of the benefits of laser processing over traditional manual processing in the aerospace industry, it is far from the only beneficial laser capability. There are a large number of other laser processes that the aerospace industry can use to their advantage, including:
- General laser welding — Laser welding can be performed at higher temperatures than traditional welding and, thanks to its automated nature, produces highly consistent welds
- Laser coating — Many powdered metal coatings for aircraft and satellite components can be laser fused, allowing for better coatings and improved component design adaptability
- Laser drilling — Compared to standard mechanical drilling, laser drilling offers lower costs, shorter processing time, and greatly expanded capabilities, include high precision and complex geometries.
Benefits of Laser Processing
Laser processing offers many benefits to the aerospace industry: flexibility in design and manufacturing, fabrication of lighter components, reduced costs, and more.
Laserage, an ISO 13485 and ISO 9001 certified company, is a recognized leader and innovator in the laser processing industry. Our two facilities — located in Waukegan, Illinois and Milpitas, California — use fiber, disk, Femto, Nd:YAG, and custom designed C02 lasers offer a vast array of laser processing services for small, medium, and high volume jobs.
To learn more about the advantages that laser processing can offer the aerospace industry, specifically processes such as laser welding, download our latest eBook: A Guide to Laser Welding.