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FAQ: What is the difference between CO2 and fiber lasers?

Kern offers two distinct types of laser technology; CO2 and fiber lasers. While both possess the ability to cut, and engrave a variety of materials with precision, the distinct attributes they encapsulate make them suitable for different tasks. This comprehensive guide dives deep into their distinct features, efficiency, and application domains.

Source of Laser Beam

  • CO2 Lasers: CO2 lasers employ a gas mixture enriched with carbon dioxide, which, when electrically stimulated, produces a high-powered laser beam. A staple in the laser cutting industry for years, they are famed for their versatility and have been the workhorse in Kern’s system lineup since our founding.
  • Fiber Lasers: Contrarily, fiber lasers owe their functioning to a glass fiber doped with rare-earth elements, such as ytterbium and erbium.
JPT Laser
Laser Cutter Source

Wavelength & Material Compatibility

  • CO2 Lasers: Operating at a wavelength of about 10.6 µm, CO2 lasers excel in cutting and engraving wood, plastics, and textiles, while also being capable of processing light gauge metals.
  • Fiber Lasers: With a wavelength of around 1,060 nm, fiber lasers are the go-to for metal cutting tasks, delivering high powered units in a small package. Stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, copper, and brass are just a few of the common metals cut on Kern’s FiberCELL laser system.

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Maintenance & Service

  • CO2 Lasers: Kern Laser’s mirror alignment system is renowned for its precision, efficiency, and user-friendly interface. High-quality mirrors and sophisticated engineering ensure that the laser beam is accurately directed to the workspace with minimal adjustments over time. Kern manufactures their own line of CO2 lasers, ensuring the lowest replacement cost in the industry and, if needed, same day turn around on shipment of replacement lasers.
  • Fiber Lasers: Fiber lasers utilize a delivery cable which eliminates the need for turning mirrors. This allows for a maintenance-free operation, reducing operational costs and downtime. Kern stock’s replacement JPT fiber lasers of 1, 2 and 3kW’s resulting in the fastest replacement program in the industry.
Fiber Laser Cutting Machine

System Configuration

  • CO2 Lasers: Kern offers both Class 2 (fully enclosed) and Class 4 (open bed style) laser systems in our CO2 lineup. Each customers work environment and production requirements differ slightly. The OptiFlex, OptiDual, MICRO and EcoFlex are Class 4 open bed machines, while the LaserCELL is an enclosed Class 2 system.
  • Fiber Lasers: The FiberCELL is only available in a Class 2 configuration which allows for the safest working environment possible.



Choosing between CO2 and fiber lasers hinges heavily on the specific applications and material compatibility. CO2 lasers claim superiority in versatility, excelling in processing a diverse range of materials, while fiber lasers are lauded for their precision, efficiency, and prowess in metal processing. Kern’s friendly sales team is happy to speak about your specific application and help determine the best possible laser solution for your application.

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