One of the main applications of light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (also known as “laser”) is cutting metal and other industrial materials. Lasers have a big advantage over manual tools in that they don’t have a blade that wears. A laser is just a beam of very hot, very concentrated light that cuts by burning away the material. A computer-controlled laser makes a clean and precise cut that other tools can’t achieve. There are various types of lasers available, including the CO2 laser, which was one of the first gas lasers invented and still one of the most widely used.
The carbon dioxide, or CO2, laser, was developed at Bell Labs in 1964. Engineer Kumar Patel discovered that when CO2 molecules are excited, their vibrational energy is transferred very efficiently and can be channeled into a powerful beam of light. Just three years later, CO2 lasers had been developed that exceeded 1,000 watts of power. Even today they are the most powerful type of continuous-wave laser available.
Nowadays, there are two methods for transmitting energy to the CO2 molecules. One method is to use direct current. With direct current, the CO2 is encased in a glass tube and an electrical current flows through the tube to excite the molecules until a certain amount of light is generated. The light exits the other side of the tube. Another method is to use radio frequency. In this case, the gas is in a metal tube and a radio frequency is used to create a pulsed, rather than continuous-wave, laser.
CO2 lasers can cut or etch a wide variety of materials including metal, stone, glass, ceramic, wood, leather, and even paper. In addition to these industrial or craft applications, CO2 lasers are ideal for soft-tissue surgery. They are so fine and precise that it is often safer to use a laser than a scalpel, especially in particularly delicate areas of the body. Patients who undergo laser surgery experience less bleeding, less risk of infection, and a quicker recovery than patients who have traditional surgery.
There is a range of CO2 laser cutters on the market today for both personal and commercial use. To learn more about Boss Laser’s CO2 laser cutters, see their Facebook profile here.