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Paired with 3D printing, there is a range of methods used by the prototype supplier to cut and shape a metal print mockup. Yet few are as exact, dependable and cost-effective as laser cutting. The technologies involved with laser cutting are so powerful, a continuation and advancement of its own future capacities are inevitable.
Three Main Types of Laser Cutting Tools for Metal Print Mockup
Laser cutting utilizes a continuous beam of light to make pressure and heat that then reshapes/distorts different materials with precision because the cutting head goes across the material surface. The laser technology serves plenty of functions such as drilling, cutting, and engraving based on the force of this laser, the principal element material it uses to create the laser beam and the substance it's acting upon. Laser cutting is among the most main procedure to produce a metal print mockup.
Each laser provides a constant wavelength and may serve a variety of functions. There are mainly three types of lasers used by the prototype supplier: gas laser (CO2), fiber laser, and vanadate crystal laser (Nd:YVO or Nd:YAG). Each laser uses a different base material, either by a gas mixture or by a physical diode to stimulate the laser.
A gas laser runs power by means of a gas mixture-filled tube, making light beams. The tubes include mirrors on every end. One of these mirrors is completely reflective and another is partial, allowing a few of the light throughout. The gas mix is generally carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen, and helium. Gas lasers create invisible light, at the far-infrared array of the light spectrum.
Although certain metal print mockups can be handled, CO2 lasers are generally best suited for prototypes of non-metallic materials. It usually cuts aluminum and other non-ferrous foils. One can increase the power of the CO2 beam by increasing the oxygen content, but this is risky for machines that are not suitable for this enhancement and inexperienced hands.
This type of machine is part of a solid-state laser set and uses a seed laser. They use specially designed glass fibers to amplify the beam, which takes energy from the pump diode. Their total wavelength is 1.064 microns, thus producing a very small focal length. They are also often the most expensive of the various laser cutting tools adopted by the prototype supplier.
Fiber lasers are usually maintenance-free and comprise a very long service life of 25,000 laser hours. Therefore, fiber lasers have a longer life than the other two lasers and can produce strong and stable beams. At the same average power, they can manage 100 times more intensity than CO2 lasers. Fiber lasers can maintain constant beam, quasi- or provide pulsed configurations giving them distinct functionalities. A sub-type of fiber laser process is that the MOPA, in which pulse durations are flexible. This produces the MOPA laser among the very elastic lasers, which may be used for a number of programs.
Fiber lasers are brilliantly suited to metal print mockup marking by means of annealing, metal engraving, and marking thermoplastics. It functions together with metals, alloys, and non-metals equally. Fiber lasers, based upon the energy, can be very versatile and handle plenty of unique materials. While working with lean substances, fiber lasers are the perfect alternative. Nonetheless, this is less so true for substances within 20 mm though a more expensive fiber laser machine that works with more than 6 kW can do just fine.
The crystal laser cutting process can be carried out in Nd:YAG (yttrium-doped aluminum garnet), but more usually, the prototype supplier tends to adopt Nd:YVO (ytterbium-doped yttrium vanadate, YVO4) crystals. These devices have an extremely high cutting capacity. The disadvantage of these machines is that they can be costly, not only because of their initial price, but also because their life expectancy is 8,000 to 15,000 hours (Nd: YVO4 is usually lower), and the pump diode can be very expensive.
With a wavelength of 1.064 microns, these lasers are used in a variety of applications from medical and dental to military and manufacturing. When comparing these two, the Nd:YVO laster shows higher pump absorption and gain, wider bandwidth, wider pump wavelength range, shorter upper life, higher refractive index, and lower thermal conductivity. For continuous operation, the overall performance level of Nd:YVO is similar to Nd:YAG at moderate or high power. However, Nd:YVO does not allow the generation of pulse energy as high as Nd:YAG, and the laser lifetime lasts for a short period of time.
These kinds of lasers can be used with both metal print mockup (coated and uncoated) and non-metallic print mockup (including plastic). In some cases, they can even process some ceramics. The Nd:YVO4 crystal has been combined with a high NLO coefficient crystal (LBO, BBO or KTP) to shift the output frequency from near-infrared to green, blue or even UV, giving it multiple functions.
Because of their similar size, it is possible to replace gadolinium, yttrium, or lutetium ions with laser-active rare earth ions while not heavily influencing the lattice structure required to generate the beam. This maintains the doped material's high thermal conductivity.
Advantages of Using Laser Cutting on Metal Print Mockup
There are many reasons why using laser cutting will be your preferred method when creating a metal print mockup.
Since the average laser size is only a few microns, it is possible to accurately create and cut sheet metal prototypes, which cannot be achieved using other methods. This leads to almost unlimited opportunities.
Utilizing a physiological technique, like a blade, to cut a metal print mockup usually leads to imperfections, like roughness and burrs, across the border. For most designs, these would have to be buffed out or removed which may increase the time it requires the end user to get their merchandise. Utilizing a laser gets rid of this matter.
These laser cutting tools allow the prototype supplier to cut any number of metal print prototypes according to customer needs. It is usually not necessary to adjust or reassemble these lasers to accommodate the design of a particular part. Even when it is unavoidable to adjust, the job can be easily done though.
Future of Laser Cutting in Metal Print Mockup Sector
Up to now, CO2 lasers continue to be the industry standard in metal print mockup production, though fiber lasers are being utilized increasingly. Although pretty new, fiber laser technology is predicted to become standard across the next decade. While continuing to utilize their CO2 lasers, many prototype suppliers will try fiber lasers for gaining more design choices they could provide their clients.