How To Keep Your Fiber Laser Machine Running At Top Performance

March 29, 2022
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Laser Fabrication shops treat their CO2 and fiber laser cutting machines as serious as their bank accounts. The machine’s uptime and performance will pay off, which can lead to higher profits. They may also have service contracts with OEMs or other companies to make sure that the semi-annual and annual maintenance recommendations of the manufacturer are followed.

Others Fabricators are too busy operating their machines to stop it from running for maintenance. Their attitude is “I will fix it when it goes out, but I am too busy right now to invest the time”. These Fiber and CO2 laser users quickly discover that small problems can develop over time. They are also difficult to diagnose for the machine operator. These gremlins may manifest themselves as poor cut quality, slower cutting speeds etc, etc. The problem could have been prevented earlier with proper maintenance. As long as the machine is cutting acceptable parts, even if they do so slower, it will continue to run. There is a happy middle ground somewhere between these two shops. This is where preventative maintenance can easily be performed without having to shut down the machine for a prolonged period. These are the steps you should follow, regardless of whether you have a Fiber Laser Cutting or CO2 system.

1) Make it Clean! – When? DAILY

Keep your Fiber Laser Cutting System or CO2 at its best. This is the most basic and often overlooked step. Clean out all scrap bins/drawers that have been contaminated with drops, parts or slag. Overloaded slag drawers can jam and cause problems with table travel or shuttle. Clean the slats to ensure your next job is flat and won’t tip over or slide around. This will definitely affect accuracy. Finally, clean the area around your machine to allow maintenance and operators access to the most critical areas. Move scrap, pallets, and other materials away from the machine in order that you can easily access them for material removal or maintenance.

2) When is the best time to check your gas? 2) Check Your Gas – When?

You can use either a CO2 Laser Cutting system that requires assist gasses (sometimes called “LAS Gas”) or the more recent technology of Fiber Laser Cutting. Both systems require regular inspection and maintenance to ensure the best flow rate and cutting performance from your Laser Cutting System. Both systems use cutting gases to aid the laser beam in vaporizing or removing material from cut zones. The CO2 Laser system’s gas delivery to its resonator (LAS gases) does not require any maintenance, other than checking for leaks. You may not see a leak in either system, but you will notice a difference in machine output power and/or gas usage. Every time there is a tank/gas bottle swap, make sure to check the connections and valves. You can do this easily with a rag and soapy water. Leakage will cause the soapy solution to form bubbles around the leaky fitting. CO2 Lasers can use up to three gasses in combination to deliver the right combination to the resonator. Both systems use a mixture of gas (Shop Air Oxygen, Nitrogen), for cutting gases. Fiber Laser Cutting Systems require only one bottle pre-mixed gas. Make sure that your help gasses are dry and clean. Your air supply must be clean, whether it is bottled or compressed.

3) Keep Optics Clear – When? Daily

A beam path delivery system is required for CO2 systems (replaced with the Fiber Optic Cable for newer Fiber Lasers). This makes it more complex and important to maintain your CO2 laser cutting system optics clean and clear of debris. Both Fiber Laser Cutting Systems and CO2 use a number of lenses at their cutting heads. It is crucial that these lenses are clean and free from contaminants. Any contamination of the cutting head can quickly cause cutting performance degradation and, eventually (sometimes very rapidly), a damaged lens that will need to be replaced.

4) Keep It Cool – When? – Weekly

LASER cutting systems, which are essentially a thermal cutting process like plasma and other oxy/fuel systems, vaporize material by heating. It is vital that all Laser Cutting Systems are adequately cooled due to the high heat generated and the many electrical components. C02 and Fiber Laser Cutting Systems require chillers that must be maintained, checked and cleaned regularly. Modern Fiber Laser Technology does not require a chiller system as large, but it is essential for the operation and longevity of your laser system. Your machine manufacturer will specify a time interval for checking filters, fans, coolant levels and coolant quality. Today’s laser controls include a variety of maintenance options and reminders, including links to the service department for your machine manufacturer. Many systems include interactive videos and on-board maintenance manuals that guide users through the maintenance process. The newer controls allow users to schedule maintenance according to their production schedule. You can follow a maintenance plan manually or with the sophisticated controller technology of today. Proper maintenance to your Fiber Laser Cutting System and CO2 is crucial to maintaining profitability, reducing downtime, and keeping your laser cutting machine burning longer.

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