Often laser cutting is considered a modern technology; however, this is not really true. The use of lasers in the manufacturing industry started way back in the 1900s with the idea that there is a relationship between energy and radiation frequency, discovered and published by the physicist Max Planck. Later, Albert Einstein came up with the theory of stimulated emission and the idea of utilising the energy from light.
Using these theories, the first working laser came into existence in 1960, which was developed by Theodore H Maiman.
Understanding Laser Cutting
In any fabrication or manufacturing process, cutting of material is the key step. The creation and development of laser technology for the manufacturing industry was prompted by the need for speed, accuracy, precision and efficiency in the cutting processes.
Lasers are essentially extremely powerful beams of light that are used to cut materials. These days, computers or CNC, control the lasers to vaporise, melt or burn the materials by a controlled set of instructions or as per a particular pre-set path. Laser cutting has indeed proved to be one of the most versatile inventions in the recent times.
History of Laser Cutting
In 1963, the first carbon dioxide (CO2) laser was developed by Kumar Patel at Bell Labs. This laser was more efficient and less expensive than the ruby laser and ever since it has become the most popular laser for industrial use.
In 1965, the first laser was introduced by the company Western Electric, which was created for purpose of manufacturing. A leader in electrical engineering and manufacturing, Western Electric started using lasers to drill holes in diamond dies and this is where laser technology caught on for industrial use.
In 1967, Peter Houldcroft, a German scientist, developed the laser cutting nozzle. A laser beam of CO2 and an assist gas of oxygen were passed through the laser cutting nozzle for the purpose of industrial cutting. Houldcroft was the first person who was able to cut through a 1mm sheet of steel using a laser. Many improvements were made to this technology by Western Electric and soon lasers were used by several companies for their industrial cutting applications.
In 1969, Boeing started discussing the possibilities of using the technology of laser cutting to cut harder materials such as titanium and ceramic by via a whitepaper. This path-breaking study made many companies start assessing the benefits and applications of laser cutting. In 1970, the technology of laser cutting with multi-beams was patented by Boeing and they became one of the pioneers to use laser to cut titanium.
In the 90s, with the advancements in technology, new laser cutting possibilities emerged in the laser sintering technique. The SteroLithography Apparatus was created that allowed the creation of quick prototypes. By the start of the 21st century, there were several methods and techniques of laser cutting available, which have indeed raised the standards of the cutting process.
Laser Cutting Today
Earlier, laser cutting systems did not offer precise results for complicated cutting. However, these issues are things of the past. Today, modern laser technology offers a plethora of superior cutting options and along with computer-based programming, you have complete control over the cutting process.
With laser cutting, you can now cut various components and shapes without any distortion and this is making laser cutting an ideal and valuable tool for many industries. Laser technology has enabled the manufacturing world to achieve the highest levels of precision and speed that can only be imagined.