Having visited some of the more reputable Chinese Laser Tube manufacturers Websites. I determined that they indicate a service life of anything from 1,000 to 10,000 hours. Unfortunately, this is not the number of hours used, but the number of hours from the Date of Manufacture. Subsequently, heir Warranty is generally 3 ~ 12 months. However, if you treat the laser tube correctly, you can get years of use.
So, how long does a laser tube last in reality? There is a common thought that CO2 Glass laser tubes degrade over time, even when not in use. Taking the lower 1000 hour warranty figure as an example, 1000 hours equates to approximately 6 weeks. The time it takes to deliver your laser tube replacement from China, could mean it’s already outside the manufacturers warranty when it arrives. Fortunately, good quality A-Grade tubes do not degrade in this way. Meaning that, with correct handling and usage it’s not unusual for Glass CO2 laser tubes to last 3~5 years.
So how do you tell if your Laser Tube has failed under warranty?
Looking at EFR Laser, a brand I have had experience with. Their website states that their F Series laser tubes have a Service Life of up to 6,000 hours (approximately 10 months). They also offer a 360 day warranty that is based on the power falling below 80% of the rated power for the first 180 days. Or, it falling to 75% of the rated power for the remaining 180 days.
Buying a laser tube from a reputable source, you can expect the actual power output of the laser to be around 7~10% higher than the rated value. Hence a 60 watt tube (with physical dimensions usually around 50mm diameter and 1200mm long) would typically output around 65 watts when new. This tube would need the power output to drop to below 45 watts in the first 180 days in order to claim on the warranty. Video evidence is usually needed to make a claim.
It is not unusual for a Grade A, reputable brand to last more than 2~3 years or even longer. But making sure you have a Grade A tube in the first place is the main problem.
The problem with Grade B Tubes.
It is quite common for “suppliers” to sell Grade B tubes which have failed the manufacturers required quality standards. Rather than scrap these tubes, the manufacturer sells these tubes as B Grade to Chinese re-sellers.
Low Power B-Grade Laser Tubes
If the tube is rejected because it is below it’s manufacturers rated power, it’s not unusual for re-sellers to “inflate” the power output figures. The failure may be caused by a manufacturing defect that can also affect the life of the tube. Not surprisingly, the original manufacturer will not support these Grade B tubes and you could be stuck with a dud.
Low Intensity B-Grade Laser Tubes
A more insidious failure reason could be the intensity of the laser beam. The reason that this is insidious, is because the tubes may actually output the specified laser power. However, the intensity of the laser beam is lower meaning the tube has a poorer cutting performance. A simple analogy is that a sharpened point will cause more damage than an unsharpened point.
This type of B-grade tube will engrave well, but will have little cutting depth and a tendency to cause scorching around the laser cut.
How you use the Laser Tube can affect it’s Longevity.
Another consideration is how you use the laser tube.
If you are mostly cutting thick materials, you will quickly notice a loss in power as you are running the tube close to it’s recommended maximum current. The only way around this is to slow the cutting speed but it doesn’t take long before this becomes unworkable.
If you are only engraving, then you could lose 50% of the power before it could start to affect your manufacturing.
Overdriving the Tube
Running the tube at too high a % power output can result in overdriving the tube. This is basically the process by which the gases in the laser tube break down, reducing the maximum power output of the tube. Yellowing of the cathode can be an indicator of a tube that has been overdriven.
Check out our post on “How to get a longer Life from your laser tube” for some great tips on getting the best life out of your laser tube. Also check out this post on How to Set Your Maximum Laser Cutting Power % in Vendor Settings so that you can protect your tube from accidental misuse.
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Last updated August 26, 2021
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