Laser cutting machines that include tubes filled with carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases are becoming steadily more affordable and ubiquitous. The CO2 tube that sits at the center of every such device plays a major role in determining the performance and capabilities of the whole unit.
When the time arrives to replace a machine’s laser tube, choosing appropriately will always pay off. Identifying the best co2 laser tube for a given situation and set of needs should normally be straightforward.
Two Basic Types of Tubes to Consider
The majority of laser cutters on the market today ship with glass tubes that use direct electric current (DC) to excite the molecules of gas within them. There are also metal tubes that can substituted when the time arrives for a replacement.
Metal tubes employ pulses of radio frequency (RF) radiation to add energy to the gases contained inside them. They thereby generate short but rapid bursts of laser output, instead of the steady beam typical of their DC counterparts.
Each of these approaches comes with certain benefits and advantages compared to the alternative. Glass-enclosed DC tubes tend to be more affordable than metal-housed RF units of similar power rating. At the same time, RF tubes can be opened for recharging and other sorts of service, whereas glass tubes are normally sealed more or less permanently.
As a result, the lifespan of an RF tube can be longer than might be expected of one that uses DC energy to produce a laser. The higher upfront cost of an RF part can oftentimes be justified by this fact alone.
A Couple Additional Issues to Consider
The economic implications of the two tube choices tend to play out fairly simply when weighed against each other. On the other hand, likely performance can be a bit more difficult to judge in the abstract.
The pulsed output of RF tubes can lead to a bit of raggedness when cutting certain materials. The ability of RF-generated lasers to focus more precisely, though, makes them better at engraving fine details, in general. As such, the best choice of tube type will always depend, to an extent, on how the laser machine in question will most often be used.