Why the wattage of laser cutters can be misleading - Mr Beam explains
Almost everyone knows that a good car isn't just about the number of horsepower. Or images don't automatically get better if the camera has a lot of megapixels. Or a smartphone only lasts longer because the battery is larger. In all of these examples, many components come together that ultimately ensure that the products are good at what they are supposed to do.
And it's exactly the same with a laser cutter. It's not just a matter of how many watts the laser head puts on the material, but also what else goes into it. That's why in this article we deal with the topic “Not all watts are the same”. First, however, there is a small introduction to the mudflats.
The World of Watts: An Introduction to Performance
When we talk about energy and work, the “watt” plays a central role. This unit of power is used to measure the rate at which work is done or energy is converted. The watt is a cornerstone of the International System of Units (SI) and is widely used in physics and engineering.
Who invented Watt?
The Watt unit owes its name to the Scottish engineer James Watt, who was known for developing steam engines in the 18th century. His work revolutionized the industrial world and contributed to understanding the importance of performance.
What is Watt?
The watt is the unit that measures power in a physical context. In simple terms, it is the rate at which work is done. Think of a motor, a light bulb, or even the human body - all of these devices and more can be measured in watts.
Calculation of performance
Power (P) can be calculated using the formula P = W/t. Here P stands for the power, W for the work done and t for the time. An example: If 100 joules of work are done in 10 seconds, the power is 10 watts.
Watt in practice - electrical power
The watt is omnipresent in electrical engineering. The power of electrical devices is measured in watts. A 60-watt light bulb converts electrical energy into light and heat, while a high-performance computer may use hundreds of watts.
In the world of mechanics, watts are used to quantify the work that machines do. This is important, for example, in the automotive industry to describe the performance of vehicle engines.
What does the wattage of a laser do?
Basically, you can say that the more watts or power a laser has, the more energy can affect the workpiece in the same amount of time.
It is important not to confuse this number with the input power of a laser cutter. Our dreamcut [x], for example, is operated with a 90W power supply, but the laser head has 10 watts of optical output power. A distinction must also be made between diode lasers and CO₂ lasers. The performance of these two lasers is very difficult to compare because they have different effects on the material due to different wavelengths.
Diode laser and CO₂ laser in comparison
Roughly summarized, the laser light of a diode laser cutter is generated directly in the laser head and is shot onto the material in the form of visible light without being redirected.
In comparison, CO₂ lasers are significantly more complex and larger. The laser beam is created by gases in a CO₂ tube behind the work surface. Using mirrors, the invisible laser light is directed into the work area.
Advantages of a diode laser cutter
As the previous chapter suggests, a big advantage of a diode laser cutter is its more compact design. A powerful laser can be operated with significantly less space , meaning that the work surface is significantly more spacious with the same housing size. In addition, diode laser cutters like the Mr Beam are lighter than CO₂ lasers and therefore more portable.
The more compact design also makes it much easier and cheaper to maintain or clean a diode laser cutter. The CO₂ laser cutter, on the other hand, consists of significantly more individual parts, all of which are very maintenance-sensitive. For example, the mirrors must always be kept clean and aligned and the CO₂ tubes must be replaced regularly. This means that diode laser cutters are also more durable.
In addition, they are more efficient overall and use less electricity. In combination with the cheaper maintenance, money can be saved in the long run.
Apart from all these practical aspects, diode lasers also have direct advantages when processing materials. Thanks to the wavelength of the light, they are significantly better at cutting organic materials than CO₂ lasers. These include, for example, wood, cardboard or leather.
In addition, significantly thicker materials can be cut with a diode laser with the same power. By directly irradiating laser light onto the material, the focus point of a diode laser can be maintained over a longer distance. This means that the laser beam remains thin and therefore efficient even further down.
Disadvantages of a diode laser cutter
Of course, a diode laser cutter isn't perfect either, which is something we don't want to hide here.
The biggest disadvantage of a diode laser is that it is not possible to process transparent and semi-transparent materials. Since a diode laser, in contrast to the CO₂ laser, works with visible light, the laser light simply penetrates through the material without having any effect on it.
Differences from other diode laser cutters
Of course, there are also massive differences with diode lasers. For example, a distinction must be made between average power and maximum pulse energy. With Mr Beam, the average power is given in watts, but the maximum pulse energy is slightly higher. This would be comparable to a drill that constantly drills into a wall in normal mode. However, if the percussion drilling mode is activated, where the blows correspond to the maximum pulse energy, an even faster and better result can be achieved.
In addition, the intelligent use of our dreamcut airflow, the size and length of the focus point as well as the efficient structure and optimal coordination of all components of our laser heads play an important role in why the Mr Beam can cut through materials so well.
Conclusion on the performance of a laser - not all watts are the same!
All in all, you can say that it's not just the wattage of a laser head that determines how good it really is. This can be seen much more clearly by whether the laser can actually cut through a material at the end of the day or not.
We hope that this article has cleared up some questions and confusion about laser performance. We took up the topic in a video on YouTube and explained it clearly.