Laser cutting, which originated in the mid-1960s, is a cutting process characterized by the use of an amplified laser as the “tool” and a computer numerical control program to perform the cutting operation. The main lasers used in laser cutting are CO2, neodymium (Nd), yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd: YAG) and fiber optic lasers, all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages, for example, CO2 lasers are ideal for cutting and engraving, Nd lasers are more suitable for cutting applications requiring large amounts of energy, and fiber lasers are replacing other lasers and are becoming more widely used.
Plasma cutting, which originated in the 1950s, is another cutting method that features the use of a plasma torch. The plasma torch produces a plasma heat stream that can melt even the hardest materials. Instead of using fire or flame, plasma cutting uses a conductive ionized gas, also known as plasma. Plasma can reach very high temperatures, such as 20,000 degrees Celsius. Workers who perform plasma cutting must wear appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent getting arcophthalmia, also known as photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis, an injury that occurs when a worker’s eyes are exposed to high doses of radiation. Because the plasma torch emits radiation, workers must wear goggles.
Laser cutting and plasma cutting both cut metal workpieces; they work in completely different ways. Laser cutting uses an amplified laser, while plasma cutting uses plasma.
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