The CO2 laser cutting and engraving machine is currently the most powerful continuous type of laser produced. All CO2 tubes hold a mixture of nitrogen, helium, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide gases. The tubes used for cutting machines are available in two types.
The direct current (DC) type utilizes electrical current to excite the gas molecules that results in a photonic laser beam. The RF type utilizes a radio frequency to excite the gases that creates a pulsed laser that repeats extremely fast. Both lasers are powerful and invisible. Which one is the best for each model of laser cutter depends upon the primary uses and budgets.
In terms of laser cutting and engraving, both types perform well for cutting, etching, and engraving. The laser expands the materials that can be used in machines. Other cutting machines use plasma, water, or heat so materials like plastics, paper, fabrics, and soft wood or metal will either melt, warp, or burn. The laser is so fast materials do not get ruined.
The DC tube is cost-effective, while the RF ones are much more expensive. This makes sense because RF tubes last four to five times longer than DC tubes. People with desk top or compact models typically use DC tubes because they fit into ordinary budgets and are not used constantly. Commercial companies have the resources to purchase RF tubes and appreciate the reduction in down time due to the long-lasting properties.
Desk top models typically operate on three to ten watt tubes. The power is lower due to the size and the fact that they will be used in the house or a small work shed. Commercial cutters range in power so twenty-five to one-hundred watts are used in those. The highest power level for a large commercial machine can utilize 150 watt CO2 laser tubes. The highest wattage for laser tubes in other applications is one-thousand watts.
Owners have to decide which type of tube to use before they order the laser cutting machine. Consider the size of the machine, the frequency of use, and the costs. Right now there is only one manufacturer in the United States, Boss Laser, offering cutters in a choice of CO2 laser tubes.