5 Fiber Laser Cutting Problems and Solutions

Whether you’re just getting started with fiber laser cutting or you’ve been doing it for years, you’ve probably experienced less-than-stellar results at some point. Fortunately, with a little forethought and a few tweaks, you can avoid these pitfalls and produce an excellent finished product every time. Here’s a list of five common fiber laser cutting problems and solutions. 

Problem #1: Inconsistent Cutting Quality

Inconsistent cutting quality in laser cutting operations can significantly impact the final product's appearance and dimensional accuracy. If you have this issue, you may notice variations in the depth of cuts, rough or uneven edges, and in some cases, your laser not cutting all the way through the material. 

One of the primary causes of inconsistent cutting quality is using laser settings that aren’t optimized for the material or thickness being cut. Each material has specific requirements for laser power, speed, and focus. If these parameters aren’t accurately adjusted, the laser may not cut consistently across different parts of the material.

Solution: Calibrate the Laser Power and Cutting Speed for Each Project

man changing laser power and cutting speed fiber laser settings

Before starting a project, consult a cutting speed chart and conduct tests on scrap material to find the optimal settings for laser power, speed, and focus. By doing test cuts, you can be sure your parameter settings are finely tuned for the specific material and thickness of your project.

When possible, select materials with consistent properties across the entire piece and from one piece to another for a larger job. This is especially important for materials like wood, where natural variations can significantly affect cutting quality.

Problem #2: Difficulty Cutting Reflective Materials

Reflective materials, such as aluminum, copper, and brass, can reflect the laser beam, which results in inefficient cutting processes, potential damage to the laser system, and compromised safety due to the reflection of high-energy light. Reflective materials hinder the precision and quality of the cut and limit the range of materials you can use with your laser cutting machine. 

Solution: Utilize a Pulsed Laser Mode Designed for Reflective Materials

Using the pulsed laser mode that’s specifically designed for cutting reflective materials can eliminate this problem. Unlike continuous wave (CW) lasers, which emit a constant beam of light, pulsed lasers emit laser energy in short, controlled bursts. 

The pulsed laser mode reduces the chance of reflection back into the laser system. By emitting energy in short, intense pulses, it minimizes the amount of time the beam is in contact with the reflective surface. This decreases the likelihood of the beam being reflected in a harmful direction, which protects your laser equipment and improves the quality of the cut.

Problem #3: Rapid Wear of Cutting Components

If your cutting components wear out quickly, it will negatively affect the precision and effectiveness of the cutting process. This problem is due to the high-intensity nature of laser cutting, where components such as lenses, nozzles, and mirrors are subjected to extreme conditions, including high temperatures, debris from the cutting process, and constant exposure to laser radiation. Over time, the components deteriorate and may lead to motor failure. 

laser engraving/cutting focus lens

Solution: Use High-Quality Consumable Components and Optimize Cutting Parameters to Minimize Heat

Start by investing in high-quality components that are made from materials capable of enduring the harsh conditions of laser cutting. Although they may be more expensive upfront, they provide more long-term value by reducing the need for frequent replacements and maintaining optimal cutting performance over time.

You should also optimize cutting parameters to reduce the wear on cutting components. You can adjust the laser power, cutting speed, laser focus position, and air pressure or gas pressure to create the most efficient settings for the material you’re cutting. By fine-tuning these parameters, you can minimize the heat-affected zone and reduce the thermal load on both the material and the cutting components.

Problem #4: Thermal Damage to Materials

If you’re noticing burnt edges, excessive melting, or warping of the cut material, it’s probably from thermal damage. This issue primarily occurs if there’s excessive heat during the cutting process. If the heat is higher than the melting point of the material, it can lead to warping, burning, and other damage. The root cause of thermal damage is often using laser power settings that are higher than necessary for the material and thickness being cut. 

Solution: Reduce Laser Power to the Minimum Required for Clean Cutting

The most effective strategy to prevent thermal damage is to calibrate the laser power to the minimum required level for clean and efficient cutting. You need to strike a balance in the temperature difference here. If you use too little power, you might have incomplete cuts or need to make multiple passes, which can also lead to heat buildup. Also, consider how your other settings may affect your heat setting. Increasing the cutting speed in your fiber laser cutting parameters may allow you to use higher power settings without causing thermal damage since the laser beam moves quickly enough to prevent excessive heat buildup in any one area.

Problem #5: Difficulty in Cutting Complex Shapes

Complex shapes can be challenging to cut on a laser cutting machine, particularly when dealing with intricate designs, tight curves, and sharp angles. If your machine doesn’t allow for precise control over the laser beam's movement and focus and maintains consistent cutting quality and speed in the design, you may have issues. Basic laser cutting machines may not be able to handle these demands so you might end up with imprecise cuts, uneven edges, or slower processing times.

fiber laser cutter cutting irregular shapes

Solution: Invest in a Machine With Higher Axis Resolution and Cutting Speed Capabilities

A cutting laser with a higher axis resolution and better cutting speed capabilities lets you cut even the most complicated and intricate shapes. The axis resolution of a laser cutter refers to its ability to make fine positional adjustments along its movement axes, typically X, Y, and Z. 

A higher axis resolution means the machine can make smaller, more precise movements. This precision allows for smoother transitions around curves and tighter control over the laser's path. You’ll end up with cleaner cuts, sharper details, and a higher overall quality of the finished piece. 

A machine's cutting speed determines how quickly it can move the laser beam across the material's surface while maintaining effective cutting. Machines with better cutting speed capabilities can handle complex shapes more quickly without sacrificing quality. 

The Ultimate Solution: Leverage OMTech Fiber Cutter for Consistently Great Results

OMTech fiber laser cutting machines are high quality and affordably priced. We have machines for all purposes, from industrial laser cutters to desktop models. No matter what type of laser cutter you need, you can find it at OMTech. Reach out today to get started creating something amazing.