Some Laser Fabrication shops take maintenance of their CO2 or fiber laser cutting machine as seriously as they do their bank account. They know that maintaining their machine correctly provides payback in uptime and performance which in turn, results in better profits. These shops may have a service contract with an OEM or independent company as well to ensure that the semi annual and annual maintenance recommendations by the manufacturer are adhered to strictly.


Other Fabricators are just too busy running their machines to shut it down for periodic maintenance.  Their attitude is “I’ll fix it when it goes down, I’m just too busy now to put the time in”. The problem these CO2 and Fiber laser users soon find out is that little by little, over time, small problems develop. The machine operator is at a loss trying to troubleshoot them too.  These gremlins may manifest themselves as poor cut quality, slower cutting speeds etc, etc. Even though the problem could have been avoided earlier on with proper maintenance, as long as they are cutting acceptable parts, albeit slower, the machine stays running.


Somewhere in between these two shops there is a happy medium. A place where preventative maintenance can be done without shutting down the machine for an extended period. Here are a few simple steps that you can use whether your running a CO2 or Fiber Laser Cutting system to ensure your system remains running at its peak performance.


1) Clean It Up! - When? - DAILY
The simplest and yet most often overlooked step in keeping your CO2 or Fiber Laser Cutting System at its peak is to keep it clean. Start by cleaning out the scrap bins/drawers of all the drops, parts and slag from previous cuts. Slag drawers that are allowed to be overloaded will jam shut and eventually interfere with the table shuttle or travel. Next clean off the slats so your next job will sit nice and flat and not have a tendency to tip up or slide around easily which will certainly affect accuracy.


Lastly clean the area around the machine so maintenance and operators can access critical areas of the machine, Move pallets, raw material, scrap etc away from the machine so that all areas can easily be accessed for maintenance or material removal


2) Check Your Gas - When? - When Switching Gas (Bonus -  This check can be done while the machine is cutting!)
Whether your running a CO2 Laser cutting system which requires assist gasses (sometimes called LAS Gas) or your running the newer technology in Fiber Laser Cutting both systems have gas delivery systems that require maintenance and periodic inspection to ensure you're getting the optimum results in flow rate and thus cutting performance from your Laser Cutting System. Both systems use cutting gasses to assist the laser beam in vaporizing and removing material from the cut zone. If your running a CO2 Laser system the gas delivery to the resonator (LAS gasses) doesn’t require much maintenance other then checking for leaks. In either system you may not notice a leak, but you will see a difference in the machine’s output power and/or gas use..


Check the valves and connections on gas bottles and tanks every time there is a gas bottle/tank swap out. This is easily done using a rag and a soapy water solution rubbed around the gas line connections. Any leaks will result in the soapy solution forming bubbles around the leaking fitting..  

While CO2 Lasers use up to a combination of up to three separate gasses to deliver the correct combination for an application to the resonator both systems utilize a combination of gas (Shop Air, Oxygen, Nitrogen) for cutting gasses. Typically Fiber Laser Cutting Systems are far simpler, requiring only one bottle of premixed gas. Lastly make sure your assist gasses are clean and dry. Whether bottled or your using compressed/shop air your air supply has to be free of contaminants.


3) Keep Optics Clean - When? - Daily
As CO2 systems require a beam path delivery system (replaced by the Fiber Optic Cable on newer Fiber Lasers) there are many more “Optics” in a CO2 system and therefore it is much more extensive a system and as such, much more important to ensure your CO2 laser cutting systems optics are clean and free of debris. Both CO2 and Fiber Laser Cutting Systems both use a series of lenses at the cutting head, whereas these are also critically important to be kept clean and free of debris and contaminants. Any contamination in the cutting head will quickly lead to cutting performance deterioration and eventually (sometimes very quickly) a damaged lens requiring replacement.


4) Keep it Cool - When? - Weekly
As LASER cutting systems are in essence a thermal cutting process just like plasma and oxy/fuel cutting systems they vaporize material through a heating process. Because if the extensive heat created and the electrical components inherent in every Laser Cutting System it is of paramount importance that they are thus adequately cooled. Chillers are a critical aspect of any C02 or Fiber Laser Cutting System and as such must be checked periodically, cleaned and maintained. While newer Fiber Laser Technology requires a far smaller chilling system it is still critically important to the proper operation and life of your laser system. Filters, fans, coolant levels, coolant quality and cleanliness should all be checked on an interval set forth by your machines manufacturer.


Today's Laser controls have a myriad of built in maintenance reminders and options including direct links online to your machine manufacturers service department. More systems even include on-board maintenance manuals and interactive videos which take a user step by step through the maintenance process. These newer controls also allow a user to schedule maintenance in accordance with their production schedule. Whether you choose to follow a maintenance schedule manually in a handwritten log book or via the sophistication of today's controller technology, proper maintenance to your CO2 or Fiber Laser Cutting System is a crucial step in maintaining your profitability, keeping your down time in check and keeping your laser cutting system burning longer.


At Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales we know laser systems. Whether you're looking for a used CO2 laser cutting system to fit a tight budget or you're looking for the best in affordable Fiber Laser Technology we have the right solution and experience to help you. Call us today at 813-444-4555 or visit us on the web at www.southernfabsales.com for more information.

 

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