Image of a laser cutting through sheetmetal.

Fiber Laser vs. CO2 Laser

When it comes to precision laser cutting and marking applications, it can be difficult to decide which type of laser technology will best meet your needs. Fiber lasers and CO2 lasers each have their advantages and drawbacks. In this blog, we’ll explain the differences between them, compare the common applications and benefits, and help you choose the type of laser that’s right for your project.

What’s the Difference Between CO2 and Fiber Lasers?

The two main types of lasers used in industrial applications are CO2 and fiber lasers. While both are capable of cutting and welding metal, there are a few key differences between them:

  • CO2 lasers use gas to generate a laser beam.
  • Fiber lasers use optical fibers infused with rare earth elements such as ytterbium or erbium.

Fiber lasers tend to be more efficient than CO2 lasers, requiring less power input for the same output. The wavelength of a fiber laser is typically much smaller than that of a CO2 laser, which makes it ideal for thin material cutting and welding applications. Fiber lasers can also reach higher peak powers than CO2 lasers, allowing for faster processing speeds.

Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the differences between them can help you make informed choices when selecting a laser system for your application.

How Does a Fiber Laser Work?

Fiber lasers use optical fiber bolstered with a rare earth element to produce a beam of light. This light is then focused through a lens or mirror to create the desired effect. Fiber lasers are used for cutting and marking applications due to their high power efficiency, small size, low maintenance requirements, and relatively low cost compared to other laser technology. They can be used in many settings, such as metal fabrication, medical device manufacturing, and 3D printing and engraving.

Benefits of Fiber Lasers

The benefits of using a fiber laser include higher speed cutting than traditional CO2 lasers due to higher power output, greater energy efficiency since less energy is required to maintain the same power levels, and longer service life since it has fewer components that require replacement or repair. And because the optics are all contained in an enclosed space (as opposed to CO2 lasers, which must be manually adjusted depending on the material being cut), there’s less chance of contamination during operation.

Drawbacks of Fiber Lasers

However, there are some drawbacks to using a fiber laser that you should be aware of. These include limited processing capability since they cannot cut thicker materials or process large parts, the need for specialized personnel due to the complexity of operation, shorter maintenance intervals, and higher initial setup costs due to the need for special components such as lenses and mirrors.

How Does a CO2 Laser Work?

CO2 lasers use gas discharge tubes that contain carbon dioxide as their active medium to generate light. This light is then directed onto the material being processed via lenses or mirrors. CO2 lasers have been around for many years and are widely used in a variety of industries, including metal fabrication, medical device manufacturing, graphic design, and automotive manufacturing.