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How To Choose The Right Laser Cutting Machine: CO2 Vs. Fiber Laser

Views: 0     Author: Kevin     Publish Time: 2024-05-07      Origin: Tianchen Laser

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The world of laser cutting is rapidly evolving, with two main technologies dominating the market: CO2 laser cutting and fiber laser cutting. Both methods offer superior precision and versatility compared to traditional cutting techniques, making them suitable for shops of all sizes. As the technology continues to advance, laser cutting machines are becoming more precise, user-friendly, and adaptable to various applications.

How To Choose The Right Laser Cutting Machine: CO2 Vs. Fiber Laser

However, choosing the right laser cutting machine for your business requires careful consideration of several factors. The decision-making process should start with an assessment of your current applications, needs, constraints, and long-term goals. Key variables to consider include material type and thickness, precision requirements, productivity targets, purchasing budget, and operating costs.

In this article, we will explore the differences between fiber laser machines and CO2 laser machines to help you make an informed decision when selecting the CNC machine tool that best suits your needs.

Fiber Laser Cutting Machines

Fiber laser cutting machines represent the latest advancements in laser cutting technology. In these machines, the laser beam is generated within an active fiber and directed to the cutting head through transmission fibers, diodes, and fiber optic cables. This fiber-optic bundle delivery method simplifies the laser-making process, resulting in more affordable machines entering the market.

Compared to CO2 laser cutters, fiber laser cutters are more compact but offer twice the power output for the same power consumption. They are ideal for processing fine sheet metal, medium sheet metal up to 12 mm, and non-ferrous metals like copper and brass. However, access to the machine is restricted for safety reasons, as laser reflections can be hazardous to vision. The focal diameter is very small, producing an intensity a hundred times greater than that of CO2 models.

CO2 Laser Cutting Machines

CO2 laser cutting machines generate the laser beam using a mixture of gases. The high pressure needed to excite the gas in the resonator is produced by small, efficient, and reliable wear-free semiconductor modules. CO2 laser cutting technology is suitable for cutting thick sheet metal, wood, acrylic, glass, paper, textiles, plastics, leather, stone, and many other materials.

CO2 laser cutters deliver high output for sheet metal and tubular parts up to 30 mm thick. When oxygen is used in the cutting process, the speed is nearly comparable to that of fiber lasers for thicknesses greater than 6 mm.

Advantages of CO2 Laser Cutting Machines

1. Finish: CO2 lasers generally produce better edge quality on stainless steel and aluminum workpieces.

2. Flexibility: CO2 lasers offer flexibility for a wide range of laser applications, including non-metals.

3. Known Technology: With over 30 years of history, CO2 laser technology provides predictable results, giving users a good level of assurance.

Disadvantages of CO2 Laser Cutters

1. Operating Costs: Power costs are 70% higher due to the increased power requirements for CO2 resonators, blowers, coolers, etc. Mirrors, bellows, and laser gas are also needed to maintain a pure and clean beam path delivery system.

2. Maintenance: All components of the beam path delivery system require maintenance, which disrupts manufacturing and is costly.

3. Speed: CO2 lasers cannot compete with fiber lasers when cutting thin materials. For example, the recommended cutting speed of a 4KW CO2 laser in 16 GA mild steel using N2 as the cutting gas is only 260 IPM, while a similarly equipped fiber laser can achieve a cutting speed of about 1,417 IPM.

Advantages of Fiber Laser Machines

1. Investment Cost: As solid-state laser technology becomes more popular, system costs are decreasing. Well-equipped domestic fiber laser cutting systems can be purchased for well under 300K.

2. Maintenance: The absence of beam path delivery systems and extensive use of mirrors, bellows, and gas in fiber lasers (especially solid-state resonator types) significantly reduces maintenance requirements and associated costs.

3. Speed: In the competition between fiber lasers and CO2 lasers for cutting thin materials, there is no comparison. Fiber lasers are two to three times faster in gauge material.

4. Operating Costs: Due to lower power and cooling requirements of the resonator, fiber lasers consume about 1/3 the power of their CO2 counterparts. Combined with less maintenance, fewer consumables, and faster cutting, the cost per piece for fiber lasers is very favorable.

Disadvantages of Fiber Laser Machines

1. Thick Material Finishing: One of the advantages of CO2 lasers is their ability to achieve better finishes on thicker materials, particularly stainless steel and aluminum. While fiber laser technology is catching up, CO2 lasers still lead in this area.

2. Overall Flexibility: CO2 laser cutters offer more flexibility and can cut a wider range of materials, especially non-metals. Although fiber laser technology is advancing and can cut brass and copper out of the box (which CO2 lasers struggle with), they have limitations, particularly in non-metallic applications.

Comparing Fiber Laser Cutting Machines and CO2 Laser Cutting Machines

Cutting Speed

Fiber lasers are generally faster when cutting thin metals (0-5 mm or 1/4 inch). A 2kW fiber laser can cut thin materials at the same speed as a 4-5kW CO2 laser cutter. With the same power, fiber lasers can cut light metals 5 times faster than CO2 lasers due to their shorter wavelength, which is more easily absorbed by the metal being worked on.

Cutting Quality

CO2 lasers have an advantage over fiber laser cutting in terms of consistent cutting edge quality (sharpness/finer edge) across all thicknesses. This means you don't have to worry about poor edge quality when cutting thin or thick materials. Fiber lasers struggle to make consistent cuts as materials get thicker, but with advancements in fiber laser technology, today's fiber lasers provide much better cutting quality than earlier models.


The laser of a fiber laser machine may have more dangerous wavelengths for your eyes and body, requiring eye protection when in use. However, using the same precautions as when working with CO2 laser cutting equipment can help mitigate these risks.

How To Choose The Right Laser Cutting Machine: CO2 Vs. Fiber Laser

Purchase and Operating Costs

When investing in a laser machine, it's essential to understand the total cost to determine if you are making a wise investment. Total cost includes the initial purchase price of the laser machine and the ongoing costs of running, maintaining, and repairing it over time.

Currently, the initial/upfront cost of fiber lasers is higher than CO2 lasers. High-end fiber laser machines typically start at $40,000, while high-end CO2 machines usually start at $10,000. In general, a fiber laser machine with the same specifications and features (such as power, size, speed, etc.) is likely to cost more than a CO2 machine.

However, the initial/upfront cost is only part of the equation when calculating the overall cost of a laser machine. Operating, maintenance, and service costs over time must also be considered. Some people make the mistake of only looking at the initial price of a laser machine and forgetting to factor in these ongoing expenses, especially if the laser machine will be used frequently.

When calculating the total cost of a laser machine, consider the following factors:

1. Consumables: CO2 lasers require gases like oxygen or nitrogen to operate, while fiber lasers do not (although they can use gas for better cut quality).

2. Power Consumption: Fiber laser cutters are approximately three times more energy-efficient than CO2 lasers, meaning they use 3 times less power to cut the same material.

3. Maintenance/Cleaning of Parts: CO2 lasers have parts such as mirrors, turbines, and tanks that require cleaning and repair to prevent failure and costly repairs. It's important to keep an eye on your laser machine's maintenance needs to save money in the long run.

4. Repairs: CO2 lasers have more parts that can fail compared to fiber lasers. It is estimated that a fiber laser machine will fail after about 50,000 to 100,000 hours, while a CO2 laser will fail after about 20,000 hours. Fiber laser cutters are considered solid-state machines (almost all in one) with no moving parts, reducing the likelihood of malfunction or improper operation.

5. Lifespan: All machines will eventually fail. In general, a high-end CO2 laser machine has a lifespan of about 10-15 years, while fiber lasers can last two to three times longer.

Keep these points in mind when calculating the cost of the type of laser machine you will choose. If you don't cut material often and need to cut non-metallic materials like wood or acrylic, a CO2 machine will be your best choice. If you need to cut large amounts of metal, especially thin metals, a fiber laser may be the best option for you.

Another crucial factor to consider is time. As the saying goes, time is money. The speed at which your laser machine operates has a significant impact on the value of your investment.


CO2 laser systems require regular maintenance, including mirror maintenance and calibration, resonator maintenance, while fiber laser cutting solutions require minimal maintenance.

Compared to CO2 cutting systems, fiber cutting solutions are more compact and have less impact on the environment, requiring less cooling and significantly reducing energy consumption.

The photoelectric conversion rate of fiber lasers is above 30%, while the photoelectric conversion rate of CO2 laser cutting machines of the same power is about 10%~15%, and the photoelectric conversion rate of solid-state lasers is about 3%.

The power consumption of a fiber laser is only 20% of a CO2 laser with the same power, resulting in lower overall costs.

Based on this comparison, if you want to mark metal, a fiber laser cutting machine works more efficiently under the same conditions, provides better cutting effects, and is maintenance-free, although the purchase cost is slightly higher. Large and medium-sized enterprises can give priority to fiber-optic equipment.

If you're cutting/engraving organic or non-metallic materials, then a CO2 laser cutter is the obvious choice.

One strategy people consider is buying a CO2 laser machine initially due to low yield and the need to work with a wider range of materials. Then, once their metal production increases, they invest in fiber lasers to keep up with demand. This may be a suitable approach for your business.

Lastly, always double or triple-check other online sources before buying a machine. Also, verify with the business you are buying from to ensure that the machine you are purchasing meets your specific business needs.

At Tianchen Laser, we understand the importance of choosing the right laser cutting machine for your business. Our fiber laser cutting machines are designed to deliver superior performance, precision, and efficiency, making them an excellent choice for businesses of all sizes and industries.

Our machines are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including high-quality fiber lasers, advanced control systems, and robust mechanical components. This ensures that our machines can handle even the most demanding cutting applications with ease, while maintaining exceptional cutting quality and speed.

How To Choose The Right Laser Cutting Machine: CO2 Vs. Fiber Laser

In addition to our advanced hardware, we also offer comprehensive support and service to our customers. Our team of experts is always ready to provide guidance and assistance, from helping you select the right machine for your needs to providing ongoing technical support and maintenance.

If you're considering investing in a fiber laser cutting machine, we invite you to contact Tianchen Laser today. Our knowledgeable staff will work with you to assess your specific requirements and recommend the best solution for your business. With our cutting-edge technology, reliable performance, and exceptional service, you can trust Tianchen Laser to help you take your cutting operations to the next level.

2024’s Top Picks: Best Laser Cutting Machines for Precision and Efficiency

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