CO2 and, resp. Fiber Laser Cutters
Compared to fiber lasers, differences mainly relate to cutting speed with thicker materials than 5 mm: with these, a CO2 laser cutter provides faster straight-line cutting and initial piercing times. Also leaves a smoother surface finish.
The medium in a CO2 laser is a gas discharge, that is generally air-cooled (alt.: water-cooled, in high-power applications).
The gas in the tube consists of ca. 10-20% carbon dioxide, 10-20% nitrogen, a few % of hydrogen or xenon, and helium, with specific proportions varying (according to the particular laser).
Because of their reliability, CO2 lasers are a mainstay in the laser metal processing industry: utilizing them mostly for cutting & welding.
Fiber lasers are great at cutting materials that are thinner than 3 mm.
With steel cabinets, air ducting, racks… a fiber laser cutter will do the job faster and is, by now probably a better choice than a CO2 machine.
E.g., a 3 kW fiber laser will cut 1mm stainless steel at ca. 30 m/min whilst a “corresponding” 5 kW CO2 cutter will achieve just about 1/3 of that speed…
For job shops the choice between CO2 and fiber is less obvious.
Videos available from Bystronic, Trumpf etc. show that the speed differential gets progressively smaller as the complexity of parts increases.
As material thicknesses increase to 4mm, the cutting speeds of both laser types start to converge.