Laser technology is in widespread use in many engineering and manufacturing situations, to cut metal into a huge variety of different shapes. However, many people think that this type of technology may not be appropriate for cutting certain types of reflective material. What do you need to know, if this is a challenge that you may encounter?
Some metals are highly reflective just by their nature, but may nevertheless be in high demand in certain industries. For example, silver is probably one of the most reflective metals to be found, and it is commonly used in the creation of solar mirrors, some jewellery or sunglasses. Other reflective metals include brass, bronze, copper or gold, while stainless steel can also present problems with reflection, should it be finished off in a certain way.
Risks from Reflection
Laser cutting machines typically use a combination of mirrors and lights in order to function properly. The issue can arise when directing the laser beam at the reflective metal itself. It's possible that the beam could be "bounced" back by the metal sheet into the machine, causing significant damage to the lenses, mirrors and other components. This could be a costly proposition and result in considerable downtime.
Some people may choose to fit a nonreflective coating to the surface before work begins, but this may only be part of the remedy. During the process of laser cutting some molten metal may be created and this by itself will also have highly reflective properties. This could cause a bounce back into the machine, as well.
A More Proactive Approach
When you consider these risks, it may not be surprising that some contractors choose not to use this approach when dealing with those metals. However, others understand how to proceed while minimising the risk to the machinery.
One of the answers may be to take great care to set up the machine using very precise parameters and a consistent approach, so that any chance of damage through reflection is significantly minimised. It's also possible to install a failsafe device to the cutting equipment, where detectors will automatically sense when radiation levels are high within the machine and automatically shut it down. Thus, if the level of reflection based on incoming radiation is deemed to be potentially damaging, the machine can be switched off accordingly.
Have a word with your supplier to determine their approach to cutting reflective materials.