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Laser cutting depends on an assist gas, which may be active or inert. Oxygen is the standard active assist gas used for laser cutting of mild and carbon steels. It is also referred to as the cutting gas.
When cutting with oxygen, the material is burned and vapourised after being heated up to ignition temperature by the laser beam. The reaction between the oxygen and the metal actually creates additional energy in the form of heat, which supports the cutting process. The liquid iron oxide, which has very low viscosity, is removed from the cut by the shear force of the oxygen jet.
The pressure of the oxygen can be increased in order to improve the melt-shear removal process. This increase is not, however, limited by the cooling effect caused by the gas, but by the increase in sideways burning due to the higher oxygen concentration. This can result in bad cuts with significant dross or no cut at all.
The maximum oxygen pressure depends primarily on the material thickness. For thin sheets up to 2 or 3 mm, oxygen pressure can be as high as 20 bar, where the contribution of the combustion process is insignificant and the melt-shear removal process does all the work. For thick sheets however, the maximum applicable oxygen pressure drops rapidly. At thicknesses above 20 mm, the applied pressure is rarely over 1 bar (gauge).
Maximising Productivity with the Right O2 Purities
Industrial oxygen is typically supplied in cylinders with a minimum purity of 99.5%. Generally speaking, this is not sufficient for laser cutting as it does not result in the best cut quality or the fastest cutting speeds.
We deliver LASERLINE® process gases to meet your specific oxygen purity needs, thus helping to maximise your productivity and return on investment. We also work closely with laser manufacturers to ensure that our LASERLINE® gases meet OEM purity requirements. Our minimum specification for oxygen purity for laser cutting is 99.95%, based on the knowledge that there is little to be gained by increasing purity any higher.
Our LASERLINE® programme extends far beyond purity specifications, however. We offer a complete range of products and services, uniting our in-depth laser cutting know-how with our long-standing experience in the delivery of fully integrated laser solutions.
Our spectrum of services extends from process consulting through gas storage and supply technologies to all-round technical support. The result is a state-of-the-art, all-inclusive supply and service package tailored to your specific needs.