What Is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting is a method of manufacturing that uses a laser to cut materials. All of the advantages -– extreme accuracy, clean cuts and sealed fabric edges to prevent fraying -– make this method of design very popular in the fashion industry. Another benefit is that one method can be used to cut many different materials, like silk, nylon, leather, neoprene, polyester, and cotton. Also, the cuts are made without any pressure on the fabric, meaning no part of the cutting process requires anything other than the laser to touch a garment. There are no unintended marks left on the fabric, which is particularly beneficial for delicate fabrics like silk and lace.
How Does It Work?
This is where things get technical. There are three main types of lasers used for laser cutting: the CO2 laser, the neodymium (Nd) laser, and the neodymium yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd-YAG) laser. For the most part, the CO2 laser is the method of choice when it comes to cutting wearable fabrics. This particular process involves firing a high-energy laser that cuts by melting, burning or vaporizing material.
To accomplish the precise cut, a laser travels through a tube-like device while being reflected by several mirrors. The beam eventually reaches a focal lens, which targets the laser to a single spot on the chosen material for cutting. Adjustments can be made to vary the amount of material that is cut by the laser.
The CO2 laser, the Nd laser, and the Nd-YAG laser all generate a concentrated beam of light. That said, differences in these types of lasers make each ideal for certain tasks. The CO2 laser is a gas laser that produces an infrared light. CO2 lasers are easily absorbed by the organic material, making it the first choice when it comes to cutting fabrics like leather. Nd and Nd-YAG lasers, on the other hand, are solid-state lasers that rely on a crystal to create the light beam. These high-powered methods are well-suited for engraving, welding, cutting and drilling metals; not exactly haute couture.