The first decision buyers have to make regarding a CO2 laser for cutting, engraving, or etching is the type of tube preferred. The choices are a direct current (DC) excited laser tube or a radio frequency (RF) excited tube. They are made of different materials and function differently. Both types can be used in lasers of any size, from desk top hobby ones to massive and powerful industrial ones.
DC Laser Tubes
These tubes are filled with a mixture of gases that excite when energy is passed through the tube. The resulting direct electrical discharge creates a photonic laser beam. This beam is invisible, yet powerful. Tubes are typically made of glass. A DC tube is a fraction of the cost of a RF tube, but does not last as long.
RF Laser Tubes
Often referred to as laser cutter metal tubes, they create a pulsed laser that repeats extremely fast and consistently. They are much more expensive than their DC counterparts, but last up to five times longer. This tube performs slightly better when engraving. It has a higher precision than DC tubes for this particular task.
Both tubes are excellent for cutting many materials. There is virtually no difference between the two in this aspect. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages between the two can be confusing. Selection assistance is available for those who simply cannot decide which tube to have placed into their machines.
It is interesting to note that there is only one North American company, Boss Laser, which offers both types of laser tubes to customers. In most cases, the decision comes down to cost and primary use of the machine. A small business owner who wishes to offer better quality engraving than traditional methods will want to select the radio frequency tubes.
A hobbyist who will be cutting custom designed patterns for miniature scenery, mobiles, or jewelry may decide on the direct current tube. The lower pricing will be easier to budget. If the hobby will provide a second income, the purchase of DC tubes can coincide with craft fairs, exhibitions, and holiday season. Ask any questions that come to mind, and seek recommendations from experienced staff before making a final decision.