Friday, July 6, 2018

Air Assist - A Laser Operator's Best Friend

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While exhaust fans pull fumes and particles away from material under a laser, the air compressor (or air assist) blows compressed air directly on the point of contact between the laser and the material. Seem counter-productive? Let’s take a closer look at why air assist is crucial to laser cutting success.

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What Does “Air Assist” Do?
Laser Cutting involves high levels of focused heat in a very thin beam that incinerates material with an incredibly small kerf. It all works amazingly well, but it does create the perfect conditions for the material to flame or catch fire. What the air compressor does is help prevent flames from forming or igniting in the first place by keeping a constant blast of air on the laser where it meets the material. You might think that this would add to the flames as oxygen is required for a fire to burn. But in this case it is more like blowing out a match, in that there is too much air for the fire to stay lit.

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The overall effect of the air compressor is twofold. First, as stated, it prevents flames from forming and spreading. This also has the added benefit of reducing char on your material, in particular, with wood, cardboard and paper. Remember, however, that the air compressor is not a safety fail-safe feature. It isn’t meant to detect or warn of fires. Always monitor your laser when in use and never leave it operating unattended. For more safety protocol, check out our laser safety certification program

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Proper Care & Maintenance

Operators will notice a decline in the effectiveness of the air compressor the more it is used. Like most laser cutter accessories, it requires routine cleaning to keep the air flowing at the right spot and at maximum volume.  Depending on usage, you may want to clean the air assist nozzle after each project or at least daily. It may not require that much cleaning but it is better to clean it and not have to start a project over due to flaming on your material.

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