Today, laser technology is used everywhere – from medical procedures to cash registers and heavy industrial processes. But in 1960, the first functional laser was described as a solution to a problem. With creative thinking, the ability to produce an intense and narrow beam of light with a single orientation has proven to be very useful.
Many types of lasers have been invented in a short period of time. Fiber optic lasers were first demonstrated by Elias Snitzer in 1961.
The laser gas cutting process, which used a mixture of carbon dioxide, was first invented by Kumar Patel in 1964 in Bell Labs. Then came the crystal laser cutting process, also at Bell Labs, in 1964, but this time the invention was marked by engineer J. E. Geusic.
Laser gas cutting
The history of laser gas cutting begins in 1965, when Western Electric introduced the first production laser, using a laser to make holes in diamond molds. The first gas-assisted laser cutting experiments took place in 1965.
The idea came from Peter Houldcroft, assistant scientific director at the Welding Institute in Cambridge, UK. These tests used a 300W CO2 gas laser at the Harlow Electronics Research Laboratory.
The laser was intended for military applications, but then began to be used for industrial applications. Laser cuts were made using an oxygen-assisted gas. Until the late 1960’s, laser gas cutting was used for metal in applications where CO2 lasers had not been initially successful.
Applications for fiber lasers
It took about two decades of development for the first commercial fiber laser devices to appear on the market in the late 1980’s. Today, they are used for many applications, including cutting, welding, additive manufacturing (3D printing), as sensors etc. Beam intensity, duration and heat output of a fiber laser can be controlled by the minute, which means they are very suitable for precision applications.
Fiber laser cutting
Fiber is the latest form available for laser cutting. In 2009, the first commercial equipment with this technology were available on the market. In 2007, Salvagnini, an Italian company, began investigating the potential for applying fiber laser technology to sheet metal cutting.
This company has invested heavily in the manufacture of CO2 laser cutting equipment, but has realized that it only achieves incremental performance improvements.
The L1Xe fiber laser, which can cut steel up to 18 mm thick, was introduced to the world at the EuroBlech exhibition in 2008. Salvagnini delivered its first fiber laser cutting device in March 2009.
In the history of laser cutting, which is quite short, huge steps have been made, and technology continues to grow rapidly. The latest fiber lasers can cut stainless steel up to 100 mm thick. In addition, if a few years ago this laser cutting technology was only available for large industries, today it is accessible to small businesses, small manufacturers and even for home.
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