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The difference between 3D and cutting laser systems

Over the last years, laser systems for cutting industry have become the essential device for the intense majority of sheet metal fabricators. All the time, the most preferable tool for fast and precise cutting almost any metal less than 1 inch (2.54 cm) thick is a CO2 laser that continues enlarging its fields of application.
At the time when laser systems appeared out of laboratories, scientists have found another laser application. The development of ultraviolet laser gave birth to additive manufacturing, called 3D printing. 3D laser systems are able to produce virtually all available materials.
Despite the fact, that the light from a laser beam is not the only technology enabled to cure, sinter, melt or even join these various materials, it remains the leader. The technology of metal-based 3D printing is based on the infrared fiber lasers with a wavelength of 1,070 nanometers, whereas conventional laser cutters are based on solid-state fiber or disk laser systems with a wavelength in the range of 1,030 to 1,080 nm.
In spite of the fact that the wavelengths are similar, the wattage differs. Thus, the average power of 3D laser systems is 500 watts, while fiber lasers for cutting can generate up to 6 kilowatts. If that type of lasers was installed in a 3D system, it would burn a hole through the bottom of the device.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that laser power is just one parameter among numerous others. That is why today laser manufacturers tend to provide the versatility of laser systems. For example, they create great lengths that allow making laser products tunable (that can be adjusted to a range of materials).
3D laser system manufacturers employ advanced fiber optics and electronics for quick improvement of laser parameters like makers of laser cutters do. At the present time, it is possible to produce spots of different sizes by changing the crystal orientation for quick scanning huge areas on the inside of the part and following tracing the outline.
Finally, all these changes provide better part quality and faster build speeds of fiber laser systems. The fact is a small spot size is better than a large one because it offers a small melt pool, and consequently, less stress. However, it means that there are lower deposition rates produced by the laser system.
Thus, it is necessary to find a balance between process stability and the cost of fiber lasers. Of course, it is highly difficult to make because of various factors such as layer thickness, powder grain size, powder delivery and application mechanisms, the reflectivity of the raw material, and assorted machine parameters, but the development of a high-beam-quality laser system is required.
Optromix is a fast-growing fiber laser manufacturer and a vendor of optical fiber sensors and optical monitoring systems. The company offers fast turnkey solutions and creates sophisticated fiber laser systems for special purposes. Optromix uses only its own technologies and develops a broad variety of fiber lasers. If you have any questions or would like to buy a laser system, please contact us at