Understanding the Challenges of Copper Laser Cutting
Laser cutting has long been used to process steel, stainless steel, and other sheet materials. However, when it comes to copper laser cutting, traditional methods and machinery fall short. At AP Precision, we utilize special tools and techniques to provide highly-precise copper laser cutting to our clients in a range of industries including electronics, medical devices, and decorative arts.
In traditional laser cutting the technician programs an XY axis laser beam to trace a pattern over flat piece of material. The laser either cuts, melts, or burns away a fine line of the material, allowing for a smooth cut that’s accurate to .001 of an inch. This process leads to very exact results with minimal warping and minimal strain on the material. However, copper laser cutting presents special challenges.
Reflective material, like copper, does not absorb the same type of infrared laser light, rather, it reflects it. This makes copper laser cutting a special challenge for metal fabricators. Luckily, with the correct equipment and process, excellent results can be obtained. Traditional CO2 lasers emit a wave of 10.6 µm, but at AP Precision, we work with lasers that can operate at a shorter wavelength, which penetrates the copper and also allows for a more precise cut. Copper laser cutting is possible, it just requires the correct temperature, angle, speed, and gas-use.
A Technical Approach to Copper Laser Cutting
At AP Precision, we execute our complex copper laser cutting jobs with a high-level of care and quality assurance. This helps us minimize waste, reduce costs, and meet our customer’s specific needs. For example, since many of our clients operate in the computer, medical, and other high-technical fields, they rely on us to produce extremely accurate cuts. Our commitment to quality and our expert knowledge have allowed us to offer some of the best copper laser cutting options in San Diego.
Copper Cutting Speeds and Laser Positioning
We pay attention to cut speed and laser position to optimize the correct initial piercing point on the sheet. This helps maximize the efficiency of the beam. We modify the power settings and position the sheet grain in a way that minimizes drag and helps support a clean and efficient cut. When piercing and cutting copper, we use high-pressure oxygen to support consistency of the laser cutter. Using oxygen during copper laser cutting creates a copper oxide on the surface of the sheet. This reduces the reflectivity of the surface, helping the laser pierce more quickly and predictably. Similarly, when we laser cut brass, we use a nitrogen cutting gas. After the cuts are complete, we use high quality metal cleaning chemicals and processes to restore the copper to its brilliant and shiny finish.
Why Choose Copper Laser Cutting?
Copper’s highly conductive nature makes it an ideal component for computer and electronic equipment. Due to the often small and highly exact needs of computer parts, copper plate and wire need to be measured and cut to precise standards. Laser cutting is also more precise than plasma cutting, and can also reduce the chance of warped materials.
Copper laser cutting is less likely to warp, damage, or contaminate metal than traditional methods. A professional metal fabricator will then also be able to properly clean, pack and ship the final product in a way that keeps it safe from damage. At AP Precision, we recommend copper laser cutting for any project that requires the sheet to remain flat and un-warped.
Advanced laser copper cutting reduces the chance of the metal being contaminated with small pieces or flakes of another metal. This is especially important for our computer and medical device clients, or any clients who will be treating the final product with a chemical finish.