What is the air assist option and when should it be used?

Laser Q&ACategory: Laser QuestionsWhat is the air assist option and when should it be used?
Alfex Laser Staff asked 1 year ago
1 Answers
Jordan Staff answered 1 year ago

The air assist option (standard on most popular laser engravers) directs a stream of compressed air or gas onto your material, primarily to aid with the cutting process – it can be used for engraving as well but generally is not as it tends to dirty the material surface more than when if not used.
There are a number of different styles of air assist, the two most common being either a ‘cone style’ that directs the compressed air perpendicular to the material and directly down into the cut or a ‘tube style’ which directs the air down and at an angle towards the rear of the machine.
There is also an air curtain design where the compressed air is pumped out from the bottom of the X-axis gantry through small holes creating an air curtain effect across the width of the work area. Each type has its own advantages – with the cone style it minimises residue left on the surface and provides a cleaner finish particularly on wood, and because the cone covers the bottom of the lens it also provides some additional protection.
The downside with the cones is that you must use compressed air 100% of the time – even during engraving – otherwise you can damage your lens. Plus you only have limited clearance between the bottom of the cone and the material during cutting/engraving so if your material is not flat or if a part tips up during cutting there is a higher risk of it crashing or it can be difficult to engrave into recessed areas.
With the tube style it provides extra clearance for engraving and cutting uneven material or in recessed areas and it provides easy access to inspect and clean your lens without having to remove any parts. There is also no need to use air assist during engraving which provides cleaner results on the majority of engraving applications.