What is CO2 laser used for?

CO2 laser is one of the technologies that boasts the largest variety of uses. The areas of application range from the medical sector to the restoration of monuments. Whether it is applied to skin resurfacing or eliminating writing from ancient walls, CO2 laser is an incredibly efficient and cost effective tool.

CO2 laser for the manufacturing of signs and displays

But it is in the industrial sector that CO2 laser truly shines. The high spectrum purity, high stability, energy efficiency, the possibility of multiple power options, ranging from a few to a thousands watts, are all characteristics that have determined its success in the processing of materials and made it reach high levels of quality.

The packaging industry

CO2 laser is now an indispensable production tool for the packaging industry. The materials used (plastics, cardboard, wood and derivatives) and the characteristics of this sector’s typical processes (research of personalization, continuous innovation) are extremely compatible with the use of CO2 laser, which widens exponentially its possible applications.

An example is the production of fresh produce bags using laser microperforation. The laser microperforation makes it possible to optimize the exchange of gas between the inside of the bag and the surrounding environment, which, in turn, makes it possible to extend the product’s shelf life.

Laser is used for paper processing in the packaging industry

One of the latest applications of CO2 laser is the so-called natural branding. This recently developed application consists of marking the label directly on fresh produce’s surface. Information such as logos, tracking information and production batch can be directly visible on the products.

This information is traditionally printed on labels, which are then pasted onto the product. Laser labeling of fresh produce allows to avoid this step, thus eliminating the need for glue and other chemicals. This application is very effective and doesn’t damage the quality or durability of the product in any way.

Laser technology can also greatly enhance more traditional processes.

One example is the laser welding of plastic bags. This type of flexible packaging is increasingly used to save on space and create packaging adapted to different types of products. Laser welding can also be used for flexible packaging. This process uses laser energy to heat the material and thus seal the bag.

The second application is laser engraving of flexible bags. This application uses the extreme controllability of laser technology to create depth-controlled incisions on the plastic material. With this technique, it is possible to create easy-to-open packaging or innovative packaging for ready-to-use products.

The fashion and interior decoration industry

Carbon dioxide laser is used in the field of fashion and interior design. CO2 laser can become a powerful creative tool in the hands of architects and designers. It is also an environmentally sustainable tool which significantly reduces the ecological impact of the textile industry.

Laser marking, microperforation and cutting are the main operations used in this field.

Laser marking is mainly used to engrave decorative patterns on fabrics and leather. The great advantages of CO2 laser are high manufacturing speeds, precision, elevated repeatability of impression and the possibility to engrave any type of geometric pattern or design.

Laser drilling of leather finds many applications

Laser marking also finds innovative applications in the field of textiles. One example is the use of laser marking of denim fabric. It is now possible to laser wash jeans. This method significantly reduces the consumption of chemicals and water.

The laser decoration of ceramic tiles is another CO2 laser applications for the interior design world.

Again, the main advantage of this laser is the almost infinite range of motifs that can be transferred onto the tile’s surface (from simple geometric motifs to real black and white photographs).

The food industry

Industries use laser to engrave label on fresh fruit and vegetables

The food industry recently discovered how useful the carbon dioxide laser can be. In these applications, laser is used to carry out work directly on the product’s surface, thus replacing the use of mechanical devices. Some examples of these CO2 applications are fruit and vegetable laser peeling, laser marking of codes on eggshells, laser engraving of cheeses and cured meats.

Digital converting

Laser technology fits perfectly into a digital manufacturing process. Indeed, the CO2 laser’s characteristics are best appreciated when it is inserted in highly automated processes.

CO2 laser can cut intricate shapes out of a paper box

An example of a successful application is paper processing. Thanks to laser technology, it is possible to create integrated systems capable of printing, punching and cutting paper into a desired size. All kinds of details and customizations can also be added with laser which would be impossible to do when relying on the mechanical methods traditionally used in this sector.

Laser is also ideal for the production of security paper. Codes, perforations, cuts and other identification marks can be added quickly and easily.

Tool industry

Laser heat treating of metal strenthen the surface of parts subject to wear

The production of tools and tooling in general can greatly benefit from the use of laser. In the case of laser surface hardening treatments, the metal surface is exposed to the effects of the laser beam, causing an internal transformation of its molecular structure which increases the wear resistance of the tool.

Panel industry

Extreme controllability is one of the strengths of laser processing. For the signage industry this aspect translates into a huge advantage. The CO2 laser makes it possible to engrave writings, logos or other information with extreme precision and high definition on the most commonly used materials for panels and signs such as plexiglass, steel or aluminum. Laser technology also makes customizations easy.

Display industry

Acrylic laser cutting is one of the areas in which CO2 laser is unbeatable. The paneling industry has benefited greatly from the use of CO2 laser. Laser is in fact indispensable in the manufacture of LGP Backlight panels.

These are PMMA panels which are perforated at regular intervals using laser. The panel, thus prepared, is then illuminated by LEDs which, suitably positioned, create a uniformly illuminated surface. The main advantage of these displays is that it is possible to create large backlit panels with very low energy consumption.

Laser technology is indispensable to this type of manufacturing because holes can be drilled with a precision and regularity that would be extremely difficult and expensive to obtain using traditional production methods.

Automotive industry

CO2 laser is perfect for cutting plastics in the automotive sector

Some of the most common CO2 applications in the automotive sector are decorations of plastics, surface hardening of metals, microperforation of leather for interiors, decoration of upholstery, welding, engraving of codes for the identification and traceability of parts, etc.

In fact, this industrial sector was one of the first to introduce the use of laser in its manufacturing processes. It is therefore no surprise that the CO2 laser is so widely used.

One laser, multiple uses

Ultimately, CO2 laser has an almost infinite range of uses. Its wavelength makes it suitable for the processing of most materials. Contact us for more information: there might a laser solution to your problem.

Laser cutting polyethylene foam

Thermoplastics are polymeric materials with incredible properties. Their name derives from their main property: becoming viscous when heated and solidifying once cooled.

These characteristics makes it possible to laminate and easily shape these materials. Industrial applications are endless: from the packaging to medical devices sector, without forgetting the electronics, automotive and food industries. There is no sector in which thermoplastic doesn’t have a key role.
Laser cutting polyethylene foam

On this blog we have already seen how thermoplastics work well with laser technology. Microperforations, cutting, kiss-cutting are but a few examples of how well thermoplastics absorb the CO2 laser wavelength and offer great flexibility and high quality results.

Now, thermoplastic polymers can also be used in a foamy state. Polymeric foams, or expanded polymer, are obtained by treating the polymer chemically or physically until the right shape is obtained. Expanded polystyrene, expanded polyurethane and expanded polyethylene all belong to this category of materials.

Expanded polyethylene (aka polyethylene foam) is one of the most popular foams used in the industrial sector, due to its lightness, insulating properties and resistance. This foam is ideal for laser cutting.

Laser cutting polyethylene foam

In order to cut polyethylene foam, a CO2 laser precisely and cleanly outlines the wanted shape in the polymer foam. This process is easily controlled digitally. The advantage of using laser technology is that the pieces are cut perfectly, down to the last millimeter and in a well defined shape. It is therefore ideal for highly detailed work.

An example of what co2 laser can do is tool shadowing. Basically it means cutting a layer of foam with cut outs of different sizes for each tool in your tool box. The tool will be perfectly kept still and safe inside the toolbox.

Laser cutting polyethylene foam

Making this application using only mechanically tools is very difficult if not impossible, because the expanded polyethylene sheet would have to be pinned down in order to cut out the shapes without ruining the material. This method works only if the shapes have straight lines. As soon as the lines are curvier or more detailed, it becomes difficult to trace the objects outline perfectly.

Laser technology makes it easy to cut polyethylene foam in the right size and shape. All you need to do is create a CAD file with the shapes to cut out. The file is then transferred to the software making it possible for even the most complicated of shapes to be created.

Laser welding of plastic film

The packaging sector has numerous applications for CO2 laser. There is nothing surprising there since the materials best suited for packaging are also the ones, due to both composition and shape, that work best with CO2 laser technology.

In previous articles, we have already seen some of the CO2 laser applications on materials such as thermoplastic film, wood and some of its by-products like MDF and paper and cardboard for innovative forms of packaging. The distinctive wavelength of CO2 laser makes cutting, perforation, incision and marking particularly efficient and cost effective.

Laser welding plastic film in a factory

CO2 laser is an efficient and versatile tool for the laser welding of thermoplastics, a popular technique used in the packaging sector. This process takes advantage of the fact that thermoplastics are easy to work with once they’ve been through a thermic treatment. In layman’s terms, the welding process consists of heating the area where the two thermoplastic pieces join with the laser beam until fusion point is reached.

This process can be applied to different types of plastics, either laminated or molded, opaque or transparent. There are many advantages to laser welding:

  • it’s a very fast process
  • like all laser processes, it’s extremely precise and easy to control
  • it doesn’t leave residue or waste
  • it doesn’t expose pieces to thermal or mechanical stress because the heated area is localised and the process isn’t mechanical
  • it’s highly automatable and easy to integrate with other systems, whether they be digital or analog

These characteristics have made it a tool of choice in sectors where precision, cleanliness and the absence of thermal or mechanical stress are determining factors. The production of biomedical devices or electronic devices, the production of parts and components for the automotive industry, the production of airtight packaging for the pharmaceutical and food industry are all examples of the applications of laser welding.

Laser welding for plastic film

In the world of packaging, laser welding is most used on laminated thermoplastics. The laser of choice for this technique is the CO2 laser.

Direct welding is the type of welding that works best with thin materials. As opposed to transmission laser welding used mainly for three-dimensional and moulded pieces, direct welding operates directly on the material. This process allows for a higher speed of productionand therefore increases productivity while lowering production costs.

The materials most used in the packaging industry are:

The interaction between the laser beam and the material cannot be predetermined. Many factors come into play: the type of polymer, the existence of added additives to the formula, the laser beam’s speed of movement on the surface and the laser beam’s intensity itself.

But as a general rule, the laser’s effect is stronger on the material’s surface and decreases the deeper it gets. Adding carbon to thermoplastics can highly increase the material’s capacity for energy absorption, thus making the laser much more efficient.

Laser welding plastic film in rolls

Laser welding is perfect for the production of original packaging that brings added value to the product because it can work in a very localised way on complex shapes.

Equipment for laser welding of plastic film

A laser system for laser welding needs different components. The fundamental ones are a laser source, a scanning head and a software system to program and control the process.

Apart from the afore-mentioned items, a laser welding system should also include devices for product management, loading and unloading, and powering the laser source.

Laser welding plastic film in a packaging plant

In conclusion, laser welding applications are numerous since laser technology is so versatile. It can be adapted to completely digital processes or be integrated with analog production lines. This technology greatly lowers production costs and not only increases productivity but also the quality of the product.

How to refill CO2 lasers

CO2 lasers are one of the most widely employed technologies in manufacturing. The technology is so flexible and powerful that it is installed on a large number of industrial machines, used in a wide array of sectors. CO2 laser sources are well renowned for their resiliency: a machine based on this technology insures thousands of hours of high quality work.

This type of laser still needs periodical maintenance work. Its weakness is a slow but inevitable loss of power.

Gas leaks, CO2 lasers’ weakness

Excessive gas leakage has consequences on the laser’s output. Its power will either decrease over time or be reduced drastically all of a sudden during operation. This phenomenon produces a reduction in the quality of operation: the laser beam becomes unstable and precision work is compromised. When that happens, laser maintenance is necessary.

Maintaining CO2 lasers

Maintenance can be done by the producer or by a company specialised in this sort of operations. Generally, maintenance work includes disassembling the machine and refilling the gas tube. Many specialised companies offer this type of service, which often also includes the cleaning and realignment of the optics and other components of the laser source.

These operations, even when carried out by professionals, do expose the laser source to potential infiltrations of dust and other microscopic foreign bodies. This sort of infiltrations could compromise the laser beam quality and, as a result, the good working conditions of the machine. Transporting the machine to the maintenance service facilities can also expose it to accidental damage.

It is important to bear in mind that every maintenance will cause a standstill of production that can last from a few days up to a few weeks.

The advantages of El.En’s Self-Refilling technology: Never Ending Power

As a solution to the drawbacks of maintenance, El.En.’s research and development department has developed an innovative Self-Refilling technology. Thanks to Self-Refilling, gas-refilling operations can be carried out directly in-company.

The Self-Refilling system is based on disposable CO2 gas canisters. Every laser source has an in-built lid-protected slot for gas canisters. When it is time to refill the laser source, one needs to simply open the lid, take the empty canister out and put a new canister in. This way the laser source will maintain its max power and its operational standards will be preserved. Servicing operations can be carried out manually and without the laser source producer’s assistance.

The ability to independently refill a CO2 laser source brings about several advantages. Here are some:

  • interruptions to production are reduced to a few minutes
  • crucial parts of laser sources, such as the optics, stay sealed
  • chances of infiltration of dust and foreign bodies are greatly reduced
  • chances of damages from transportation are reduced

There are huge savings on resources and the laser source is always at max power and efficiency.

The Blade RF series of Self-Refilling CO2 laser sources are equipped with this innovative technology. These sources all have a compact design, come in multiple power options and can operate on a large variety of materials. Explore our range of products and discover the vast array of available applications.

Laser Paint Removal

An aircraft in a hangar for maintenance operations

Paint stripping operations have always been an expensive and time consuming process. Removing paint from an object, especially a large painted surface, requires many hours of work. In most cases, solvents and big quantities of water are used to strip paint which has negative consequences on the health of workers and the environment.

An alternative to traditional paint stripping is laser paint removal, an effective, fast and environmentally friendly method to remove paint from a surface.

Traditional paint removal methods

Paint has been used to cover surfaces and object since ancient times. Their function is twofold: on one hand they protect the material they cover from wear and tear, on the other, they strongly contribute to the aesthetics of the object.

Practically all industrial sectors make use of paint, but for some, it is a crucial part of the production process.

This is the case, for example, in the vehicle manufacturing industry, whose objects – airplanes, ships or trains – have large painted surfaces.

Aircraft can be repainted in cases of general maintenance or after a change of ownership.

Traditionally, chemical and physical methods are used to remove paint, i.e. the paint is softened with solvents and then scrapped mechanically. This technique has other drawbacks:

  • it uses of highly polluting substances
  • areas that don’t need stripping need to be masked to avoid damage
  • the chemicals used need to be rinsed off, which causes a high water consumption
  • it produces potentially toxic waste and chemical vapors which are bad for operators and the environment

Laser depainting makes it possible to overcome these drawbacks, transforming stripping into a fast, effective and precise process.

The process of stripping paint with laser

The laser paint stripping process consists in irradiating the painted surface with a laser beam that vaporizes the paint layer.

The paint is removed practically instantly thanks to a sublimation process. Compared to traditional methods, laser paint stripping is a much faster process. In a few hours it is possible to remove tens of square meters of paint from a surface. The only consumption of resources is the electricity used to power the system.

Harmful solvents or other chemicals are unnecessary. Just apply the laser to the surface and in a few seconds, the paint is removed.

Which technology for laser paint stripping?

Defining the technology suitable for a laser stripping system in detail is difficult without knowing its specific context of use. The fundamental components of a system of this type are a laser source and scanning head.

Theoretically, the choice of the laser source depends on the chemical composition of the paint to be removed. It is a well known fact that each material absorbs a certain wavelength more or less well. The most efficient laser source has a wavelength that is best absorbed by the material it is trying to sublimate.

However, an important consideration must be made. It would not be viable to create a paint stripping machine which could only strip on one type of paint. A laser depainting machine must be able to remove the greatest number of paints on the market.

The CO2 laser offers the best compromise between reliability and versatility. A carbon dioxide laser source is therefore the most suitable tool for this application. The wavelength of 10.6 micrometers is in fact effective on most of the paints on the market because it is highly absorbable. It can remove both white and colored paints, without damaging the underlying surface.

The scanning head is the other fundamental element of a system for laser stripping. This device is used to precisely direct the laser to a specific part of the surface and to keep it focused on that work area. These two characteristics make it an extremely precise work tool.

The choice of the head depends not only on the laser used, but also on how much surface needs to be covered. Large surfaces require particular scanning heads such as the El.En. 1770HR which manages to cover an area as big as 2300 x 2300 mm.

The fundamental components of a laser system for paint stripping are The laser source and the scanning head. However, their implementation is strongly guided by the type of work needed. The possibilities are endless and each application requires the study of a tailor-made system. Contacting our technicians is the best way to find out the possibilities this application offers.

What plastics can be processed with CO2 laser?

Plastic processing was one of the sectors in which the introduction of the CO2 laser was immediately appreciated. Laser has made it possible to carry out faster, more precise and less wasteful processes.

Flexibility has been the watchword that made new methods possible andopened up new areas of application for plastic processing.

Beads of coloured plastic

The word “plastic” is quite inaccurate: it covers a large number of materials which have very different behaviors, mechanical characteristics, workability and possible applications.

Cutting, drilling and marking are the main processes that can be carried out with CO2 laser. Plastic objects are cut by gradually removing the material until the laser beam penetrates through its entire thickness.

Some plastics lend themselves more to cutting than others. The best results with laser are obtained with acrylic (PMMA) and polypropylene (PP). On these plastics, the cut comes out with smooth, shiny edges and without any scorch marks.

CO2 laser marking for plastic is based on the same principle as laser cuts; though in this case, the beam only removes a surface layer, leaving an indelible mark.

Beads of polystyrene

In theory, laser can mark any type of logo, code or figure on plastic, but in reality, the possible applications depend on the material used. Some materials respond better to cutting operations, while others are more suitable for marking.

But what does this great variability of behavior between one plastic and another depend on? The difference lies in the different disposition of the monomers, the repetitive molecular units within the polymer. Variations in temperature have an effect on the material properties and behaviour.

Beads of Polyethylene

In fact, all plastics are processed with the use of heat. Depending on how they respond to it, plastics fall into two categories: thermosets and thermoplastics.

Examples of thermosetting polymers are:

  • polyimide
  • polyurethane
  • bakelite

The main thermoplastic polymers are:

  • polyethylene
  • polystyrene
  • polypropylene
  • polyacrylic
  • polyamide
  • nylon
  • ABS

Thermoplastic polymers, up to a certain threshold (called glass transition temperature), behave like a crystalline solid. Beyond this temperature they first transition to a rubbery state and then finally melt. These polymers are made up of linear chains, which explains why they can be melted and easily molded at certain temperatures.

Beads of polypropylene. It is best suited for laser cutting and marking

Thermosetting polymers on the other hand, stiffen as the temperature increases until they reach melting point, beyond which a change of state occurs. Cross-linking within the macromolecule, makes them less susceptible to temperature differences.

Because of these substantial differences, not all plastics respond well to laser. In general, thermoplastics lend themselves better to laser processing, but even thermosets can, to some extent, be subjected to laser processing.

In the following tables we have summarized the result of the interaction between the various polymers and the laser.

Thermosetting polymers
Type of polymer Cutting quality Marking quality
Polyurethane Fairly good Poor
Bakelite Very poor Very good
Polyimide Very good Fairly good
Thermoplastic polymers
Type of material Cutting quality Marking quality
Polyethylene Fairly good Fairly good
Polistirene Fairly good Fairly good
Polypropylene Very good Fairly good
Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) Very good Very good
Polycarbonate Very poor Very good
Nylon Very good Fairly good
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Very poor Very good

As you can see, the results vary widely. A case by case analysis is recommended to understand which application works best. Plus, more plastics can undergo laser cutting: teflon (PTFE) is on of those.

How to choose the right laser system for plastic

The introduction of laser in plastic processing has paved the way for new applications. Laser processing of plastic is very convenient. Most commonly used polymers are perfectly compatible with the CO2 laser.

But choosing the most suitable laser system is not easy. The variables to take into consideration are many: the type of application, the type of material, and the production needs.

El. En. has produced laser systems for plastic processing for over 35 years. If you have an application in mind and aren’t sure how to make it, contact us. We will be more than happy to help you.

Glossary: laser drilling

Laser drilling consists of creating micro-holes on various types of materials. It is one of the first applications of laser for material processing.

The technique is based on the sublimation process by a focused laser beam. The laser concentrates the energy on the surface of the material, making it pass instantly from a solid state to a gaseous state. In fact, the material is vaporized and what remains is a perforation of the desired measurements.

Types of laser perforation

There are different types of laser drilling. Some are cleaner or more efficient than others.

single-pulse drilling: a single pulse creates the hole. This technique makes it possible to make holes smaller than a millimeter on materials up to 1 mm thick

double-pulse drilling: works like the previous one, but in this case the hole is created by two pulses in rapid succession

percussion drilling: the hole is created by sending multiple laser pulses on a single point

trepanning: the laser beam follows the perimeter of the hole to be made. This type of processing allows for larger holes – smaller than 3 millimeters – to be made on materials less than 3 millimeters thick

helicoidal drilling: the laser moves in a spiral starting from the center of the hole and progressively removes material as it travels. This technique allows you to create small holes on materials as thick as 25mm

The type of application and processing will depend on the intended result and type of material used.

Laser drilling advantages

The drilling of materials with traditional methods, is a slow and delicate process. When carried out mechanically the risks range from breaking the material (in cases of fragile materials such as ceramics) to the impossibility of precisely controlling the characteristics and distribution of the holes.

Yet, laser drilling is a non-contact method and therefore many of the typical disadvantages of traditional processes can be overcome.

The advantages of laser drilling are numerous:

  • It creates very quickly a great number of holes
  • It drills any material (however hard) capable of absorbing the laser radiation
  • parameters such as shape and size of the holes can be tightly defined
  • the material can be pierced at almost any angle
  • the processing speed is very high
  • the hole tapers can be controlled in a very precise way
  • the density of the holes on the surface can be definined precisely
  • processing waste are eliminated

In which sectors is laser drilling used?

Laser drilling is used in a wide variety of sectors. The ability to control the shape, size and number of holes per unit area has made it very popular. Here are some examples.

As a first example of application, we can cite is the manufacturing of acoustic panels. By varying the laser parameters it is possible to make sound-absorbing panels perfectly calibrated to the frequency that needs to be absorbed. With the same processing it is thus possible to create panels for every application, from the automotive sector (panels that absorb engine noises) to architecture and decoration (panels to optimize the acoustics of concert halls and other public spaces).

Another very useful application is the manufacturing of micro-drilled plastic bags for produce packaged in a modified atmosphere. If properly made, the holes make it possible to optimize the gas exchange between the inside and the outside of the packaging and therefore considerably extend the shelf-life of these products.

Which materials can be subjected to laser drilling

Laser drilling can be performed on a great number of materials. CO2 laser, which works with both metals and non-metals, is particularly versatile. Here is a list of materials that can be laser drilled:

  • paper
  • cardboard
  • acrylic plastic
  • plastic film
  • wood and plywood (mdf)
  • ceramic

Examples of laser drilling

Laser drilling makes it possible to manufacture sound dampening panels for many applications
The acoustic performance of sound dampening panels can be perfected through laser drilling
Microperforated plastic bags extend the shelf life of a fresh product

Which sources are suitable for laser drilling

CO2 laser sources are best suited for laser drilling on non-metallic materials and on some types of metals. Their wavelength makes them very versatile and flexible for a large number of applications.

If you are considering to start a production based on a laser drilling process, you can contact us. Our expert will be happy to give all the information you need to find a laser material processing solution.

Laser kiss-cutting

Laser kiss cutting (or kiss die cut) consists in removing the superficial portion of a sheet of material according to a specific cutting path.

Unlike normal laser cutting, laser kiss cutting does not go through all the material but remains on the surface layer.

Due to this characteristic, kiss cutting is mainly used in the paper converting and textile industries.

Laser kiss cutting is used when the superficial layer of a material made up of two attached sheets must be cut.

Laser die cutting of labels is an example of one of the most common applications of kiss cutting. The laser cuts out the surface layer into the shape of the adhesive to facilitate its removal from the support layer.

Laser kiss cutting can also be applied to the field of fabric decoration.

Kiss cutting for digital converting

Digital converting or laser converting is used to perform paper converting processes that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with conventional mechanical methods.

Laser kiss cutting is a typical digital converting application that, as previously mentioned, is particularly used in the production of adhesive labels.

This technique makes production particularly efficient and advantageous, since the costs and time required to set up the machine are eliminated.

In this sector, the materials most used for kiss cutting are:

  • paper and derivatives
  • polyester
  • plastic film
  • adhesive tape

Kiss cutting for the textile sector

In the textile industry, laser kiss cutting and laser cutting are used to decorate both semi-finished fabrics and finished garments. In the latter case, laser kiss cutting is very useful for creating personalized decorations.

This technique makes it possible to create different effects such as embroideries, appliqués and labels of various types.

Generally speaking, in this family of applications, two pieces of fabric are sewn together.

Laser kiss cutting then cuts out a shape on the surface layer of the fabric. The upper shape is then removed making the underlying drawing visible.

Kiss cutting is applied mainly on the following textile materials:

  • synthetic fabrics in general, in particular polyester and polyethylene
  • natural fabrics, especially cotton

The advantages of laser kiss cutting

The kiss cutting technique is not a modern discovery related to laser technology but dates back to traditional printing techniques.

Compared to these mechanical cutting methods based on blades and dies, laser kiss cutting offers several advantages:

  • the cutting path can be very complex, making detailed and precise cuts
  • the possibilities for customization are innumerable even within the same production cycle
  • it can be performed on a large number of materials without interrupting production
  • cutting tools don’t get worn during production which therefore eliminates the need for maintenance
  • speed, productivity and processing quality are at their maximum
  • edges are clean cut and defined and do not need further finishing

The industries of laser kiss cutting

As we have seen, laser kiss cutting is mainly used in the digital converting and textile decoration sectors.

Examples of laser kiss cutting

Laser kiss cutting is a powerful tool for the manufacturing of sticky labels
With laser kiss cutting it is possible to cut the upper surface of a multilayered material
From textile to labels, laser kiss cutting results in very creative applications

Which laser systems are suitable for laser kiss cutting

Each laser kiss cutting application must be tailor made for each customer’s needs. In the label industry, a system consisting of a CO2 laser source and a scanning head is generally used.

The laser source

For the manufacturing of labels, high power isn’t necessary: most applications can be done with a laser source below 500W.

Keep in mind though that the power is directly proportional to the production speed. It is therefore sometimes necessary to resort to higher power because of production needs.

A small clarification on the source’s wavelength: El.En. has developed a CO2 laser source specially designed for label manufacturing, the RF333P, with a wavelength of 10.2 micrometers.

This wavelength is ideal for polypropylene (PP), of which is made the surface layer of most labels is made. This source is a variant of the Self Refilling series, which are the most suitable for paper labels.

The scanning heads

The scanning head always works in combination with a laser source. Its function is to move the laser beam on the work surface and keep it focused. To do this work the source uses mirrors mounted on galvo motors and a focusing lens on the Z axis.

El.En. produced a scanning head for CO2 lasers called GioScan. The machine is available in two models:

  • GioScan 1735, capable of operating on a surface between 135×135 mm and 800×800 mm
  • GioScan 1770HR, capable of operating on a maximum area of ​​2300×2300 mm

A laser system for each laser application

Laser kiss cutting applications are numerous and ultimately depend on the material and production needs.

The advantage of laser technology is that it is possible to create custom applications.

For over 35 years El.En. has produced laser systems for industrial applications.

If you have a production idea in mind that requires laser kiss cutting,

Cardboard and CO2 laser

It is now a fact: the current pandemic has led to an explosion in online shopping and home deliveries. Contagion risks have led people to reduce any situation that include physical contact. Shopping activities have moved online for all types of goods, including basic necessities. Online shopping seems to be an increasingly common behaviour.

Forward-thinking companies have viewed these changing social trends as an opportunity to experiment with new and more advanced forms of packaging. They cater both to the new needs of home shoppers and the ones of companies that want personalised forms of packaging that better protect their goods. There is also a strong need for eco-sustainable packaging that uses fewer resources.

Laser technology has made all these things possible.

Laser manufacturing of cardboard boxes

The paper industry has now been using laser technology for several years. The CO2 laser offers undoubted advantages to its production processes. It can be integrated into fully digital, fast and flexible production processes, which allow cardboard’s technical and material characteristics to be exploited to their fullest.

Cardboard is an ideal packaging material. It is inexpensive and light and can be processed into many shapes to create boxes and packaging to suit all kinds of needs. And what’s more interesting, laser cutting corrugated cardboad gives stunning outcomes.

The introduction of digital fabrication has made it possible to considerably expand the range of packaging products. Laser makes product customisation both economical and advantageous. The fact that it is no longer necessary to change tools to create different types of products has encouraged innovation, and the experimentation of new formats. Customisations (products made specifically to cater to a certain need) are now achievable at lower costs.

Until recently, companies that wanted to send or package their products had little choice. They had to rely on the box formats offered on the market. Box manufacturers dictated the law and only offered standard shapes and sizes. If a company needed a box shaped in a particular way or with an easy opening, it was limited to what the market had to offer.

Creating boxes and packaging with custom features was not cost-effective for manufacturers or customers, unless the number of produced pieces justified the investment in production means. For customers, the only way to obtain customised packaging at a competitive price was to secure large quantities of orders. This is not always possible, particularly for small and medium-sized companies.

The use of lasers has brought about a real revolution in the way paper products are manufactured.

The production process of cardboard boxes is based on two fundamental operations, cutting and engraving, which are at the basis for all subsequent processes. Cutting separates the shape of the box from the cardboard sheet. Engraving creates folding lines on the box or devices for easy opening, such as tear-off systems. Folding the box along the cutting lines and gluing the flaps together produces the finished product, i.e. the box.

The advantages of lasers

The advantages of laser cutting are many. The laser allows these same processes to be carried out with greater speed and precision, making the production process much more flexible.

On materials such as paper and cardboard, the laser cutting process is instantaneous. The laser immediately vaporises the paper along the cutting line, resulting in precise, clean cut edges. Laser cuts need no further finishing.

Precision is ensured by the fact that the laser is a non-contact process. This makes it possible to make cuts along particularly intricate paths even at very small sizes.

But laser technology isn’t only useful for traditional machining operations such as cutting and creasing. It can also perform tasks that traditional tools can’t.

Laser Marking is one of these processes. In marking, the laser does not perform cutting or engraving, but merely modifies the surface layers of the material, which results in the blackening of the laser-processed parts. This technique turns the laser into a real digital printer that engraves marks directly on the surface of the material. In this way, all kinds of marks can be engraved, from logistical information like QR codes, barcodes and alphanumeric codes to actual images like company logos.

This gives the production system enormous flexibility: the same laser system can perform all these processes, even on a small number of parts. Cardboard packaging manufacturers can now offer their customers a lot more choice and create customised boxes, even in smaller quantities.

Contact us

Cardboard box manufacturers agree that the CO2 laser is an invaluable tool. It makes it possible to carry out work that cannot be done with traditional methods such as die-cutting. If you are a cardboard box manufacturer and are interested in a laser production system, please contact us. Our technicians will be happy to study the most suitable laser solution for your needs.

Galvo heads for laser: focus on a powerful tool

The laser scanning heads are a fundamental component of the galvo systems for laser cutting and marking. These devices deflect the laser beam coming from the source and move it along the X and Y axes according to the operation required.

A mirror galvanometer and a z-linear optic inside a Galvo Scanning Head El.En. GioScan 1735

The components of a galvo head for laser

A scanning head is made of different components.

Galvo mirrors

El.En.'s complete range of galvo mirrors

Mirrors mounted on galvanometric rotary motors deflect the laser beam. These motors transform electrical voltage into angular movement.

The mirrors, mounted perpendicularly on the engines, move the laser beam along the X and Y axes according to the input received from the motor.

The big advantage of these devices is that they can reach a very high acceleration and speed of movement.

The size of the mirror depends on the laser beam. As the diameter and the power of the beam increase so must the diameter of the mirror. The same size in turn influences the acceleration and speed of the engine’s angular movement. The smaller mirrors reach higher accelerations than the larger mirrors.

In the range of El.En.’s products there are galvanometric mirrors for different applications. Find out more about our complete 2-axis CO2 laser galvanometer mirror line on our website.

Z-linear optics

El.En.'s z-linear optics

Galvo mirrors are not the only components of a scanning head. The z-linear lens, which focuses the laser on the work surface, has an important role to play too.

To focus the laser beam and get it to work optimally, the focal length of the lens must vary based on the distance between the scanning head and the point it needs to reach on the surface.

The z-linear lens changes the focal length in real time and maintains the laser beam in focus regardless of its distance from the workpiece.

The control software

The control software makes sure that all the moving parts of the scanning head stay coordinated.

It transforms a vector file (the place where the work to be performed is described), into a path for the laser beam. The control software makes the galvo head and the laser source work together to achieve the desired result.

What processing can be performed with a laser galvo head?

As previously mentioned, the laser galvo heads are mainly used for cutting and laser marking.

Laser galvo cutting

Galvo heads make it possible to reach high processing speeds for cutting applications. Galvo heads are perfect for the processing of thin materials such as paper, cardboard and plastic film.

The head can cut out any shape quickly.

Some of the industries that benefit most from the use of galvanometric motors are the adhesive label sector that use kiss-cutting applications and the packaging industry that uses galvo-laser applications to make products with advanced features.

Galvo laser marking

A sheet of fabric engraved with galvo-laser marking

The main marking applications include the marking of various types of alphanumeric codes, such as barcodes and QR codes, and the engraving of ornamental motifs for decoration.

Laser marking can be performed on different materials such as thermoplastic polymers, wood, fabrics, leather, metals, glass.

In the case of transparent materials it is also possible to perform the impression of three-dimensional figures inside the object.

The advantages of laser galvo heads

Laser applications get many advantages from the use of galvo heads:

  • Speed ​​- The galvanometric motors reach very high angular speeds. This means that the laser beam moves over the surface of the workpiece with speeds reaching tens of centimeters per second. Thanks to this the productivity of a laser galvo system is very high.
  • Integration – Precisely because of this characteristic, galvo laser systems are suitable for integration into larger production flows. A laser galvo system consisting of a scanning head and a laser source performs best when inserted into automated processes. Furthermore, it is compact enough to be easily added to pre-existing systems, giving it an important upgrade without major changes.
  • Quality – The laser galvo systems guarantee high quality and detailed results. In marking applications, the scanning head gives the possibility to create a wide range of effects, including the reproduction of a photograph on a surface.

One device, many tools

Scanning heads are a key tool in laser material processing applications. They transform a single beam of polarized light into an instrument with many applications.

To choose the scanning head that is most compatible with the application you need, request the help of an expert. Get in touch with us: our team at El.En. will be happy to help you find the most suitable laser scanning head for your applications.