DC vs. RF Laser Tubes: Which is Better?

By | May 30, 2017

When purchasing a laser engraver or cutter, one of the most important decisions to make is the choice between a DC (direct current) or RF (radio frequency) laser tube. DC lasers are usually made of glass. Inside the tube is a blend of CO, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen and xenon. As electrical energy is sent through, the gases create a discharge. A laser beam is created, and it exits the tube at one end. This invisible, powerful beam can, once focused, be used to engrave or cut materials.

Another way to transfer energy into gas is via RF or radio frequency. RF tubes are often known as metal tubes, and the RF method creates a pulsed laser with quick repeatability. When choosing a laser for an application, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each option is crucial.

Cost Comparison

DC lasers composed of glass are about one-tenth the cost of an RF laser. The cost benefit is due to lower-end technology and a diminished manufacturing cost.

Cutting Quality

Both laser types provide high-quality cuts, and edge quality is very similar between the two. However, because an RF laser is pulsed, some material types may yield a rough edge. However, most users won’t notice an appreciable difference in quality.

Engraving Results

RF lasers create a smaller spot from the laser’s output window. The smaller the spot, the finer the detail in the engraving. For precision jobs, a small spot size can make a real difference, but in many applications, the increased quality isn’t readily apparent.


Real-world experience shows that RF lasers can last up to five times longer than the DC variety, and the increased longevity can partially offset the higher cost of an RF laser. Sometimes, the gases in an RF laser can be refilled, but the process is more costly than a new DC laser setup.

A Comparison of RF vs. DC Power

If a user compares an RF tube to a DC tube of equal wattage, the power is exactly the same. However, RF power focuses energy into a smaller spot, and beam quality and stability are better. With DC cutting technology’s lower price, budget-conscious users can buy more power. Therefore, the user’s desired application will guide their purchase decision. Visit Boss Laser to find laser tubes for sale.