CO2 or Fiber? Which laser is “better”? The new fiber laser technology has caught fire since its recent release into the laser cutting market just a few years ago and has really gotten everyone’s attention. With almost all lasers being CO2 prior to this release, the fiber laser has already taken a massive chunk out of the CO2 market in the recent 5 – 7 years it has been around.
For a customer who is in the market for a laser, how do they determine which is a better fit for them? Most customers would most likely fall into one of these two categories:
· This is my first laser purchase and am new to the laser cutting industry.
· I already have a CO2 laser but am currently looking to upgrade.
In either scenario, the questions to ask yourself would be:
· What type and how thick is the material we will be cutting?
· How much production do we have for the machine?
Here are a few pros and cons to having a CO2 and Fiber laser:
· Initial Investment - You can get into a used CO2 machine at a fraction of the cost of a new Fiber.
· Availability - Finding a quality, used, CO2 machine will be far easier and much more economical.
· Thicker Material - CO2 lasers for the most part will outperform cutting thicker material in anything 1/2” and above.
· Operating Costs - When comparing a new CO2 to a new Fiber, the CO2 machines will consume far more power than the fiber. There are many more consumables (lenses, optics, etc.) with a CO2 compared to the fiber.
· Blowers and Vacuum Pumps - Used CO2 resonators will need to have the turbo blower, vacuum pump and optics replaced. The timing of this is different for each mfg.
Fiber Laser Pros:
· Speed - Fiber lasers can cut thinner material up to 400% faster than a CO2 Laser.
· Reflective material - No Problem! You can cut Aluminum, copper, and Brass with ease.
· Operating Costs - No need to worry about Consumables, Gases, Optics, and Mirrors because a Fiber Laser doesn’t require them. This translates into Low maintenance cost.
· Lower Maintenance/Rebuild Costs - CO2 average maintenance is every 12k-48k hours (depending on machine) and can run about $12k-$50k (depending on machine). With a Fiber Laser it’s close to 100,000 hours and at a fraction of the cost.
· Power Consumption - The power usage for a Fiber Laser is about half of what you would expect from a CO2.
Fiber Laser Cons:
· Initial Investment – There are very few used fiber machines available and if you find on the price will still be quite high. A new Fiber Laser is $400K and up depending on the brand, sheet size and power supply size.
· Newer Technology - Beware the first-generation Fiber optics due to the fact the technology was new and there were still many issues being worked out.
In conclusion, determining which type of laser is the better fit will depend heavily on what stage you are in as a laser cutting facility. A start up may be better off finding a 10 – 15-year-old CO2 machine whereas the shop with lots of production and internal laser knowledge/experience may be able to justify a new Fiber Laser. The harder decision will be for the shops who already have a CO2 laser and are looking to upgrade. Our recommendation would be that if you looking to go new, go with a fiber and not a CO2. The CO2 will probably be the better option only if you are looking to go used.