Used in a wide range of medical applications, carbon dioxide lasers were first invented in the 1960s. As well as being used for things like skin conditions and in dentistry, industrial uses for this technology were developed in the latter half of the twentieth century. They are now used extensively all over the world to cut through metal in order to shape it. They can be used to weld sections of metalwork together and are therefore also used in manufacturing processes as well as simply cutting metal to the desired dimensions for a particular design. Due to their high precision of working, carbon dioxide laser cutting machines can be hooked up to computers which control them to a sufficient degree that they can undertake engraving work, too. A highly versatile industrial technology, carbon dioxide laser cutters look set to be around for a considerable amount of time to come.
How Was the Carbon Dioxide Laser Cutter Developed?
Although experiments with other types of gas laser had been conducted, the electrical engineer Kumar Patel first set upon the idea of using carbon dioxide for a laser while he was doing research and development work for Bell Labs, an American technology firm. Harnessing the power of a continuous wave laser, which creates a dependably consistent beam, with carbon dioxide, Patel was able to create a much more powerful laser than anybody else had previously made. The industrial applications soon became obvious, and his technology was subsequently built into machines that were specifically designed for cutting metal. Soon, carbon dioxide laser cutting machines were also being used to cut through other materials, such as plastic. Not only was Patel's approach found to be good at cutting through very durable materials, but it did so with an extremely high degree of accuracy. Modern machines of this type are even more powerful and precise.
How Is a Carbon Dioxide Laser Cutter Made?
A carbon dioxide laser cutter functions by making use of the infrared spectrum. Because all lasers rely on mirrors and lenses to focus them, a carbon dioxide laser cutting machine must be constructed with special materials that won't burn out as they focus the laser to the point at which it will cut. As such, highly polished mirrors made from gold tend to be used. In addition, high-quality laser cutting equipment will have lenses that are fashioned from zinc selenide, a semi-conducting compound which is usually made in the laboratory.