YAG OR Fiber?

Here is a general overview with a focus on marking... 

There are three types of YAG lasers
  • Lamp-Pumped:
    • First available about 1970
    • Most maintenance of the three types
    • Water cooled - water to water heat exchange requiring an external chiller
    • 230 volts, 3 phase power
    • Approximately 500 hours before changing the power source (lamp)
    • Worst beam quality and largest beam size
    • Apertures are changed to achieve different spot sizes
    • Physically - very large systems
    • Common wattage is 40, 65, 75, 100 and 120 watts
    • Can be Q-switch controlled for a marking laser or pulsed for a YAG welding laser 
  • Side-Pumped Diode:
    • First available about the mid 1990's
    • Water cooled - water to air heat exchange - internal water only
    • 120 volts and 220 volt models
    • Lifetime can vary from 2,000 hours to 10,000 hours
    • Beam quality is better then a lamp-pumped systen but not as good as an end-pumped system
    • Typical wattage from 5 to 50 watts
  •  End-Pumped Diode
    • First available about the early to mid 1990's
    • Air cooled
    • 120 volts
    • 10,000 to 20,000 hours
    • Good beam quality - can mark 1 point characters
    • Typically low power 10 or 20 watts

  • Fiber Laser
    • First available about the year 2000
    • Least amount of maintenance
    • air cooled up to 50 watts (pulsed) for marking lasers
    • 120 volts 
    • 50,000 to 100,000 hours lifetime
    • Best beam quality - can mark 1 point charaters
    • Common wattages used are 10, 20, 30 and 50 watts
    • Can be pulsed as a marking laser or diodes can be modulated for a Fiber welding laser
    • Multi-kilowatts are available for cutting metals 

YAG laser or ND:YAG is short for Neodymium Yttrium Aluminum Garnet

Fiber is YB:Fiber.  The YB stands for Ytterbium

What is YAG and Fiber?
The ND in a YAG and the YB in a fiber is the element that gives each laser its unique wavelength of energy.  This wavelength of energy resides in the near-infrared portion of the light spectrum.  A YAG is 1064nm and a Fiber is 1060 nm.  The wavelength is almost identical and therefore each laser can do almost identical work.

The "YAG" and the "fiber" act as a holding medium for the elements and will absorb the energy from the diodes or lamp in order for the elements to energize and create the lasing affect.

YAG lasers can be pulsed or Q-switched.  We have found that YAG lasers of any variety are not as common in todays market place. In fact, a major manufacturer of pulsed or welding lasers has announced (as of 9/7/13) the discontinuation of their pulsed YAG laser line in order to focus on the fiber laser.

What do they do?
This particular wavelength of energy absorbs into metals and some plastics.  This means that processing takes place.  These lasers will engrave, mark, weld and cut metals.  Lower powered marking lasers, up to 50 watts of pulsed energy, can cut thin metals such as .020 steel or aluminum if the user has the experience to adjust the file and settings.  We, at Shertec offer consulting services if you need help.  Please see our Fiber laser gallery.  Higher powered CW (continuous wave) fiber lasers are used to cut through thick metals and now offer an alternative to high powered CO2 lasers.

YAG and fiber lasers will absorb into many plastics such as polycarbonate or Lexan, PEEK, ABS, Black Delrin, Black Acrylic and Polystyrene, just to name a few.  Please see our Fiber laser gallery for examples.

The Energy Source:

The energy source for a Lamp-pumed YAG is a lamp that that is expected to last about 500 hours before replacing.  The energy for the two diode pumped YAG's and the Fiber laser are diodes.  Diodes are solid state devices that emit one wavelength of energy (typically (808nm) into the YAG crystal for a YAG laser or into the fiber for a fiber laser.  

YAG lasers typically consist of one and up to three diodes.  The diodes are manufactured with very tight tolerances of +/- 1% and are typically energized to 90% or more maximum potential.  The diodes can become hot and IF they should, its 808nm energy can shift to 809nm or 810nm, etc.  If this should happ enthen the YAG crystal does not absorb the energy and the Neodymimum is not energized. The end result can apprear that the laser is losing power and the user must compensate by increasing power or slowing speed on the process.

Fiber lasers consists of the same diodes as used in YAG lasers; however, these diodes can be the manuafctured to much lower tolerances of +/- 3%.  Many times the throw away diodes from YAG lasers are used to make a fiber laser.  The fiber laser uses many of these same diodes in an array that is encapsulated in a box.  Each diode is energized to approx 40% of its maximum potential.  A constant, internal power feedback ensures proper power output.  This power feedback is transparent to the end user.  This is why fiber lasers have a much more constant power output and a much higher life expectancy when compared to a YAG laser.