A co2 laser utilizes a mixture of carbon dioxide gas that creates a powerful and efficient way to cut, engrave, or etch several materials. Plastic, paper, metal, polymers, wood, glass, and acrylics can all have custom designs cut out of the material, engraved into it at various depths, or etched on top for an aesthetically pleasing result. The process is also used to make precise tool and machinery components, electronic elements, and parts required across industries. The sizes of machines range from desktop models for hobbyists and small businesses, to huge industrial machines for mass production.
There are two different types of co2 lasers. Direct current (DC) lasers are made of glass and create an invisible powerful infrared beam. The radio frequency (RF) lasers are made of metal and creates an extremely fast pulsed laser. Both are measured in wattage to indicate the extent of the power and speed of the machine. Both types also create excellent quality edges. That means a co2 laser tube 40 watt machine will have the same power and cutting performance in DC or RF models. The important differences are found in the cost, precision, and durability. The cost of a DC laser is approximately ten percent of the cost of an RF laser. That is a substantial discrepancy. Hobbyists and small business owners may want to limit their searches for smaller machines to DC models.
The expense of RF models is well worth it for large businesses and industrial applications for two reasons. The RF model has a higher precision when engraving. That is essential in mass production for consistency to reduce the number of rejected pieces. The other reason is durability. These laser tubes last four times longer than the DC versions. The advantage of that is a significant time savings. Less downtime translates into higher productivity. Buyers need to determine which type of laser will accommodate expectations and intended results before purchasing a co2 laser machine. Many companies feature either RF or DC models. A few companies, such as Boss Laser, offer laser cutting machines in both RF and DC models. Regardless of the laser type, be sure to compare the available warranty and technical support offered by the manufacturer.