Fibre laser technology has taken over from the CO2 laser power source when cutting sheet metal and plate into components of simple or complex shape. David Larcombe, Managing Director of Bystronic, revealed that since August 2015 the company has not sold a single CO2 laser cutting machine in Britain or Ireland.
In contrast, fibre laser cutters have sold well. In November and December 2016 alone, orders for 14 were taken, half of which were for high-power models launched at the EuroBlech show in Hannover at the end of October last year. Two of the seven high-power machines were 8kW, with the remainder equipped with the 10kW fibre laser source, the most powerful currently available on the UK market.
As a point of comparison, Mr Larcombe said: “Of the seven lower-power fibre laser machines we sold during the last two months of 2016, five were 6kW, while the other two were rated at 4kW and 2kW. There is still a demand for the latter, competitively priced fibre models from manufacturers processing only thinner gauge materials.”
Nevertheless, he thinks that higher power fibre laser machines are the future, as they can cut thicker plate and produce superior quality edge. The 10kW fibre source is able to process 25mm mild steel and 30mm stainless steel and aluminium. Fibre also allows reflective materials to be cut safely. The same source can tackle 15mm brass and 12mm copper, formerly the province of water jet or plasma cutting machines.
Even more important, according to Larcombe, is the ability of the 10kW source to cut mid-range thickness materials much faster. Mild and stainless steels in the 3 to 6mm range, for example, can be profiled 2.5 to 3 times faster than with a 6kW fibre laser, providing a massive boost to productivity.