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What specification of a laser will cause a laser to be more "powerful" over another more specifically in cutting capabilities?

If multiple, is there one that increases the strength more than the other specs?
For example does wattage affect it more so than the wavelength?

Sorry if I am completely off on this one, pretty new to electronics and still have some misconceptions.

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The best laser for cutting depends on three factors:

  • Wavelength. This will impact the absorption into the target, The vast majority of high powered cutting lasers are between 1 um (He-Ne @1.5 um) and 10 um (Co2 @10.6 um)

  • Power. The gas Lasers are easy to excite and produce large powers (up to kW range), though Fiber Lasers (very small initial beam diameter) are catching on quickly in the 100 W range.

  • Lensing. To cut you want very small Laser diameter with minimal kerf and it's difficult to make lenses that will focus very large powers due to any attenuation causing lens heat damage. Great info on Co2 lenses here.

There is a great graphic here that shows the wavelengths and achievable powers.

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As far as I know all lasers used for machining are Carbon Dioxide and provide deep infra red light at 10.6 micron wavelength. They are the only type practical for producing the 10's to 100's of Watts required for cutting.

So the only difference would be the power.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Practically, this is probably the answer. However, affordable diode lasers at infrared can reach 10s of watts, so it's worth asking if a 40W 10600nm CO2 laser and a 40W 808nm diode laser are equally effective at cutting. I don't have the answer, and it may depend on the material being cut (e.g. on its absorption spectrum) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Drummond Dec 26 '16 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have both a 12 W IR semiconductor diode laser @942 nm and a 30 W Co2. The semiconductor Laser is much easier to use since it's so much easier to modulate the beam when using CNC. You may notice that many of the Hobbyist level gas Co2 Laser based machines burn corners (when the XY velocity lowers) because of the challenge of rapidly modulating Laser power. Supposedly the Fiber Lasers eliminate all the problems, but I have not been able to afford one yet. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Creasey Dec 26 '16 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ kW scale laser diode arrays are catching on, mainly due to their matchbox size and much higher efficiency, although CO2 laser light is more readily absorbed by... well just about everything. (I once saw a picture of a 3MW laser diode array, was the size of a fridge) \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Dec 26 '16 at 20:28

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