The efficiency and overall quality of a laser cutting operation is highly dependent on the assist gas parameters. The desire to cut thicker material has led to the observation of small process operating windows for thicker sections. The gas jet delivery and subsequent dynamical behaviour have significant effects on the cutting operation as the sample thickness increases. To date, few workers have examined the dynamical behaviour of the gas jet. This paper examines the characteristics of oxygen gas jets during CO2 laser cutting of steel. Particular emphasis is placed on the mass transfer effects that are operating within the kerf. Oxygen concentration levels within a model kerf are measured for various laser cutting set-ups. The results show a substantial reduction in oxygen concentration within the kerf. A system for oxygen concentration maintenance is described and cutting results from this system are compared with conventional techniques for cutting steels in the range 10 to 20mm thick. A theoretical analysis of turbulent mass transfer within a kerf is presented and compared with experiment.

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