New Term, New Tech (Laser Cutters in Education)

Wednesday 28th September 2022

New Term - New Tech (Laser Cutters in Education)

As soon as the word “Laser” is mentioned those of us of a certain age automatically think of that famous scene in Goldfinger when James Bond (Sean Connery) is tied spread eagled on a table and about to be dissected with an industrial laser! However the reality of laser cutting albeit less dramatic still leaves us in awe at the results.

Today’s lasers are far removed from the dangers portrayed in the movies. With thermal cut-off switches, Interlocks, guards and efficient fume extraction, laser cutters are considered safer for workshops than most CNC routers and milling machines.

Laser technology is rapidly becoming common place in many industries from gifts to galvanised parts, Universities and other education centres are now offering laser cutting courses with certification and we are only a short time away from companies actively seeking skilled laser operators. The boom in Makerspace and Fablab facilities make access to lasers easy for those who want to develop an idea or product.

What will a laser cutter bring to your workshop?
The capability for the teacher to bring their lessons to life and put the fun back into fundamentals. For the Student to turn their ideas into prototypes or finished 3D pieces whether it is Technology or Art they gain so much more from working models. A laser is capable of engraving such a variety of materials from paper & card to fabrics, woods, and plastics the only limitation is the students’ ideas!

How does a laser work?
To keep it simple, a laser system has a laser tube which uses a periscope and series of mirrors to direct the laser energy to a lens which then focuses this energy onto the material and burns the material in its path. When focused this produces a very fine cut (Kerf) typical 0.127mm with a standard 2” lens. So, this allows us to cut very small and detailed pieces, even engrave photographs and halftones without having to concern ourselves with changing or sharpening mill ends. Secondly it can cut so finely that joints are push fit not even requiring adhesive in some instances.

What is the best laser for my workshop?
This is always the burning question (pardon the pun) and unfortunately there is not a one size fits all solution. The biggest influence on this is budget, we might want the Ferrari but can only afford the Fiesta, they both get you from A to B albeit faster! The same is true of laser systems e.g. a £2,000 laser is capable of producing the same range of end products as that of a £20,00 laser but considerably slower and smaller.

Laser systems come in a myriad of sizes from A4 up 3m x 2m plus and various powers so no matter what space you have available in your classroom or workshop you will be able to accommodate a laser cutter. There are two major laser types available from most suppliers CO2 and Fiber. What’s the difference between them? I will try to keep this brief, a CO2 laser will engrave and/or cut paper, card, textiles, leather, wood and acrylics. It will also engrave but not cut glass and mark but not cut coated metals and anodised aluminum. whereas a Fiber laser will mark metals and some industrial plastics directly without the use of any pre-treatments or compounds but will not cut metals or any materials for that matter. In order to achieve this your fiber tube would need to put out some serious wattage and may also involve the introduction of nitrogen or oxygen gases.

As teachers we constantly strive to make lessons current and make learning fun, ultimately preparing students for the adult world beyond education. CSI has over 20 years’ experience in selling and maintaining laser engraver/cutters in education as well as an extensive knowledge on materials and consumables. With Co2 lasers starting from as little as £2075 +VAT we will help you find the right laser for your requirements and within your budget.

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