Basic Laser Processing System Components
Synrad manufacturers high performance CO2 lasers often referred to as the source or tube by industry pros. In addition to the laser, several components are required for a complete digital laser processing system. Synrad does not offer all of these components directly, however, you can find a list of popular brands that are compatible with Synrad high performance CO2 lasers on this website. The diagram below illustrates a CO2 laser and scan head system.
All Synrad lasers require some method of cooling to ensure optimal performance. Synrad offers both air-cooled and water-cooled options. Selecting the right cooling option depends on two key factors - ambient temperature and cleanliness of the operating environment, and laser power. Maintaining the recommended operating temperature of the laser is key to the performance and longevity of the laser. Operating environments where the ambient temperature is high will have an impact on the temperature of the laser, and additional cooling components may be necessary. Higher power CO2 lasers (> 100 Watts) require water cooling.
Industrial grade chillers are commonly used for laser cooling applications. Synrad water-cooled lasers include specifications for recommended water temperature and flow rate to help you select the right system. A list of recommended manufacturers of industrial grade chillers is available on this website.
All Synrad lasers require a well-regulated DC power supply for operation. Synrad offers a corresponding DC power supply for each laser model, typically a switching supply manufactured by Artesyn, MeanWell, BEL/Power One, and Cosel. All the components of a laser processing system will require power. Check with the specifications for each component for the recommended power supplies. A list of recommended power supplies for each Synrad laser model is available on this website, additionally, a list of recommended power supply manufacturers is also available.
Laser beam delivery systems focus the raw laser beam onto the target material being processed. As described above, there are multiple methods of beam delivery (see below), and selecting the right beam delivery system is dependent on target material, workpiece delivery, application requirements, and throughput speed. Synrad high performance CO2 lasers are compatible with a wide range of available beam delivery systems and have been integrated into numerous custom designed processing systems. A list of recommended beam delivery manufacturers is available on this website.
Synrad also offers a line of galvanometer-based scan heads that are perfectly matched with its lasers. Synrad Scan Heads are available in pre-aligned mounting kits that include the laser, scanning head, mounting rail kit (base plate), matching power supply, and WinMark Pro process control software. All components are factory pre-aligned using dowel pins to enable set-up and perfect optical alignment in just a few minutes, significantly reducing set-up time. You can find additional information about Synrad Scanning Heads on this website.
Vision Inspection Systems
The integration of visual inspection systems in conjunction with automated laser marking and coding systems are quickly gaining popularity among automated processing system builders. Visual inspection systems verify marks and codes applied to a multitude of products, ensuring proper application and readability. High speed cameras used for this purpose are available from an ever increasing number of manufacturers.
Work Piece Delivery Systems & PLC Controllers
Workpiece delivery systems that are compatible with laser processing systems include a wide variety of platforms that stretch from manual single-piece flow units to high-speed fully automated production lines. These delivery systems are highly configurable and often customized to fit specific processing applications. Customized systems typically involve specialized engineering services to design and deploy PLC controllers for precision motors, drives, and motion control systems in concert with highly precise laser processors. A list of recommended organizations that specialize in motion control systems is available on this website.
Modern manufacturing processes that utilize laser systems require the use of equipment or materials that disseminate fumes, vapors, and odors from the workplace. Industrial fume extraction and/or filtration systems that remove noxious or toxic gas, particles, and vapors are an important component of any organization’s workplace safety program. Additionally, extraction systems reduce the buildup of debris in the work area and help prevent contaminating lenses and optical surfaces. Recommended fume extraction system manufacturers that can provide both equipment and information are available on this website.
Safety Equipment & Resources
Lasers are powerful tools, easily cutting through a wide variety of materials, but potentially cause serious injury to the human body. Synrad high performance CO2 lasers are CDRH hazard classified as Class IV, the highest hazard level. By fully enclosing the laser system, the CDRH hazard classification drops to Class I, the lowest level. In the diagram above the area highlighted by the dotted line identifies the area of the laser that must be protected from human contact using interlocks and/or enclosures. Synrad offers extensive laser safety information on this website. You can also find a list of recommended Laser Safety Equipment providers on this website.
Laser Processing System Configurations
While there are many possible digital laser processing system variations, most fall into one or a combination of these four basic configurations:
1. Move the Laser
In this configuration the laser and beam delivery system are mounted on a computer controlled motion system, typically a gantry or robotic arm. In a traditional gantry system, the laser and beam delivery system will be moved in one or two axes across the target material. The illustration shows a typical gantry system that moves the laser and beam delivery system in two (X, Y) axes.
Systems using a robotic arm are similar in that the laser and beam delivery systems are fix mounted to the motion system. In this case, the computer-controlled robotic arm movements can be expanded beyond the typical X/Y axes, enabling a wider range of processing capability.
Typical applications - Gantry and robotic arm systems are used primarily when the target material or processing area is large, greater than 42.7 in. x 39.1 in. ( 1084 mm x 993 mm).
Pros - maintains small focused spot size over a large area. Easy optical setup due to the consistent path length. Also allows coaxial air assist to improve cut quality and remove debris.
Cons - typically slower processing due to weight on the gantry.
2. Move the Laser Beam
In this configuration, the laser and beam delivery system are fix mounted in a stationary position. This system uses a computer controlled scanning head to deliver the laser beam to the target material. Galvanometer driven mirrors inside the scanning head steer the beam along 2 - 3 axes enabling coverage across an imaging area, referred to as the field. The size of the field is determined by a number of factors including the scanning head lens configuration, working distance between the scanning head and target material, and if using a 2-axis or 3-axis scanning head.
Typical applications - laser processing systems that utilize scanning heads are commonly associated with high speed processing lines, where the target material passes in front of the laser beam in a continuous flow.
Pros - fastest beam delivery. Focused spot size must be chosen to suit the application.
Cons - typically smaller field of view.
3. Move the Material
In this configuration, the laser and beam delivery system are fix mounted in a stationary position. This system uses a computer controlled XY table or computer-controlled robotic arm to position the target material under the fixed laser beam position. Computer controls are supported by precision encoders that signal the firing of the laser when the target material is correctly positioned for the beam.
Typical applications - this configuration is popular with batch-process manufacturing systems, where individual units are organized into batches and processed. Electronic components and molded plastic parts are commonly marked using this type of laser processing system. Another popular application for this configuration is slitting and perforating materials for the converting and packaging industries. In many installations, several fix-mounted laser cutting systems are positioned side-by-side for roll-to-roll and roll-to-sheet industrial cutting processes.
Pros - simplest optical setup. Processing speeds can be scaled with laser power. Allows coaxial air assist.
Cons - applications may be limited based on parts handling/delivery.
4. Move the Optics
This configuration is similar to the “Move the Laser” configuration above, where the laser and beam delivery system are fix mounted. The difference is that the laser is not mounted onto the gantry or robotic arm, instead mounted in a different position within the system. The beam delivery system uses “flying optics”, a series of moving mirrors to direct the beam over a stationery work surface. A computer control system positions both the mirrors and the gantry or robotic arm movements.
Typical applications - as with Configuration 1, this system is used primarily when the target material or processing area is large, and when the appropriate laser is too large or heavy for the gantry or robotic arm. Typically you will find these types of systems in industrial cutting applications, where higher laser powers are required for processing.
Pros - allows small focused spot size over a large area for greater processing detail; can deliver greater processing speed than Option 1: Move the Laser. Also, since you are mounting only the optics on the gantry, you can use a lighter weight gantry, and move it faster to improve processing speed.
Cons - challenging optical setup, requires calibration and alignment.