Most laser-based engraving and cutting machines today rely upon the same basic technology. Replaceable laser tubes fitted to such machines enable the production and control of the focused beams of light that allow them to function. Understanding how a CO2 laser tube actually produces this beam of energy is easy enough to do and could be helpful to the owners and operators of such machines, as well.
A Straightforward Process That Produces Reliable Results
There are many different ways to produce a laser beam, some of which are better suited to certain applications than others. The gas-filled tubes that many laser-based engravers and cutting devices incorporate achieve this effect through the following process:
Excitation. Each tube contains a carefully selected mixture of gases, with carbon dioxide normally predominating by volume. A more stable gas such as nitrogen plays an equally critical role, however, in that it is the component that actually ends up producing the quantum packets of light known as photons. With the molecules in the active gas being excited through the introduction of electric current, a complementary ingredient like carbon dioxide absorbs some of that energy. This supporting effect finally allows the initial recipient of the electricity to become excited enough to start discharging photons, a development that allows it to return to its original energetic state.
Accumulation. The photons that are produced in this way then begin bouncing back and forth down the length of the tube between mirrors placed at each end. This stage of the process is necessary in order to allow a buildup of photons sufficient to actually produce a beam of useful intensity. With a strategically placed opening in one mirror allowing the emission of photons that land on that particular spot, the beam emerges only once a critical level of intensity and density has been achieved.
Focus. The resulting laser is then channeled through precisely crafted optics that make it even more focused. With the light energy produced by a 150 watt laser tube being capable of slicing quickly through even relatively thick sheets of tough metal once intensified in this way, this stage is every bit as important as the others.
Functional, Practical, Productive Laser-Based Tools
While this process remains the same regardless of various other details, there are still plenty of associated factors to consider. Many machine owners will have noticed, for example, how laser tube price levels tend to increase with higher power ratings or expected service lifetimes. Even so, understanding the outlines of the process itself can make owning and operating a laser-based machine more rewarding.