DC (glass) vs RF (metal) CO2 laser tube? Which One is Better

here are two main types of laser tubes for small laser machines: glass tubes and radio frequency tubes. A glass tube is a DC CO2 laser tube, and an RF tube is also known as a metal or ceramic laser tube. How much do you know about these two most common laser tube types? We'll talk about them in more detail next.

What is a CO2 laser tube?

First, we need to find out what a CO2 laser tube is and how it works.
The CO2 laser tube is one of the most extensively developing types of laser. The exact working process is very complex and may even involve a lot of physics. We can think of the CO2 laser tube as a component that uses CO2 as the active medium. Its main function is to produce a laser beam using compressed gas and a high voltage current or radio frequency reaction. The powerful laser beam is then applied to the material by the laser head to complete the cut.

DC (glass) VS RF (metal) CO2 laser tube: What Makes Them So Popular?

DC (glass) and RF (metal) CO2 laser tubes are installed in small laser cutting machines. As the cutting process is used in an increasingly wide range of areas, various components of the laser cutting machine are becoming known, including the DC and RF CO2 laser tubes.

They are found to have a high level of cutting and engraving capability in the cutting and engraving process. They are known for their efficiency, precision, and low cost.

Different between DC (glass) vs RF (metal) CO2 laser tube

DC (glass) vs RF (metal) CO2 laser tube

Both are the same. The fundamental function is to convert power into a laser beam which is then applied to the material to cut or engrave it. Next, we describe what the differences are.

Principle of operation:

  • DC CO2 laser tube: CO2, N2, and other gases are used to produce a powerful laser beam under the action of a direct current.
  • Metal CO2 laser tube: RF lasers produce a powerful laser beam by activating ammonia molecules in the radio frequency range.

Service life

  • DC CO2 laser tube: Although our manufacturers will tell you that the glass laser tube you buy has a lifetime of 10,000 h, almost all have a lifetime of only about 7,000 h. The lifetime of a glass laser tube is usually about one year before you need to replace it. They usually need to be replaced after one year of use and cannot be reused.
  • Metal CO2 laser tubes: CO2 RF laser tubes have a longer life span of around 20,000h or more and can be used repeatedly.

Cooling methods

  • DC CO2 laser tube: The cooling is usually carried out by water cooling. We need to maintain the water-cooled box after a certain time. Otherwise, the poor cooling effect may cause the glass laser tube to break. Therefore, using the laser tube sparingly for a long time is recommended.
  • Metal CO2 laser tubes: Generally cooled by air-cooling. This ensures long and stable operation of the machine.

Spot size

  • DC CO2 laser tube: Larger spot size of 0.25 mm. Compared to RF, the spot size could be more effective.
  • Metal CO2 laser tube: Smaller spot size, approx. 0.07mm, more accurate engraving.

Engraving results

  • DC CO2 laser tube: super-fine engraving with burnt edges
  • Metal CO2 laser tube: ideal for engraving


  • DC CO2 laser tube: low price
  • Metal CO2 laser tube: more expensive

Recommendations for two types of machines

Laser cutter - RF metal tube

It can meet most laser cutting and engraving needs. If you need to do long cutting jobs, or if you need to rely on fine engraving to make a profit for yourself. Then this RF laser cutting machine is a good choice. The machine also supports the addition of a rotary axis for easy cutting and engraving cylinders.

RF metal tube

Laser Power 38W
Laser Type RF Metal Laser Tube
Lifespan 20000h
Work Table Area 20.08" (510mm)*11.47" (290mm)
Max. Workpiece Height 2" (51mm)
Max. Carving Speed 1200mm/s
Carving Precision 0.001” (0.01mm)
Cooling method Air Chiller

Laser cutter - DC CO2 tube

If you are a DIY enthusiast, this machine is a good choice. Its low price includes features and will meet almost all your engraving and cutting needs.

DC CO2 tube

Laser Power 50W
Laser Type CO₂ Glass Laser Tube
Lifespan 10000h
Work Table Area 20.08" (510mm)*11.8" (300mm)
Max. Workpiece Height 2" (51mm)
Max. Carving Speed 600mm/s
Carving Precision 0.01” (0.025mm)
Cooling method Water Chiller

CO2 laser cutter for profitable projects

Straight ruler

You can use a co2 laser cutter to cut a rectangular acrylic sheet and then engrave the numbers on the top of the acrylic. The result is a simple straight ruler. You can also engrave a number on a glass to make a simple measuring cup.

Straight ruler

Couple name tag

A Couple name tag is a lovely and memorable gift to give your partner on important occasions such as Valentine's Day and birthdays. You can also engrave the Couple's name tag with a memorable date or monogram. This is certainly a profitable project.

Couple name tag

Decorative objects

You can carve many meaningful decorations and sell them on memorable days. Are you worried that you won't be able to make a profit?

Decorative objects


You can use the laser cutter to cut out many toys' flat patterns. Then let the children put them together for a fun and hands-on activity.



You can cut out various shapes of Pallets and engrave your favorite designs on them. You can even have your photo printed on them. This is such an interesting project.


Components of a CO2 laser

The five components of a CO2 laser are the power supply, the cooling system, the laser tube, the optical elements, and the laser beam delivery system. Each component plays a key role in the operation of the machine.

  • Laser tube
    This article is about the role of the laser tube, which concentrates the laser beam. It is also the core component of the laser.
  • Power supply
    The power supply provides the electrical energy for the laser tube to produce the laser beam and fully activate the gas mixture inside the laser tube.
  • Cooling system
    The main function is to regulate the laser tube's temperature during operation and prevent the laser tube from breaking when the temperature is too high.
  • Optical components
    Mainly responsible for reflecting the laser beam produced by the laser tube through the lens and converging it together to form a high energy laser beam.
  • Laser beam transmission system
    The generated laser beam is transmitted to the laser head to avoid exposure of the laser to personal hazards.

When should I replace my laser tube?

After using the machine for a while or reading this article, you may be thinking: when should I replace my CO2 laser tube?
When a laser cutting machine shows the following signs, it is time for you to replace the laser tube with a new one.

  • The most obvious manifestation is the deterioration of the cutting effect. Whereas before, you could easily cut a 10mm board, it is difficult to cut a 10mm board even at a reduced speed. Or the finished surface is smoother than before.
  • The beam becomes dimmer. When you observe that the laser beam from your laser head is no longer as bright as it used to be
  • Loss of laser tube power occurs with increased use. When the power loss exceeds 30% of the rated power, you must replace the laser tube. You can buy a laser power meter reader to check the power output outside the laser tube. 

How can I extend the life of my laser tube?

The life of a CO2 laser tube is not fixed. Many factors affect the life of a laser tube. Below we describe a few measures to extend the life of the laser tube as appropriate.

  1. Reduce the amount of metal cut
    Especially for the glass laser tube in the CO2 laser tube, we try not to engrave or cut metal materials. Because the metal will reflect the laser, each cut will cause serious damage to the laser tube, which will greatly reduce the service life of the laser tube.
  2. Regular maintenance of optical components
    Every other week we need to wipe down the focusing mirror and the lens in the laser before use. Stained lenses can lead to the laser beam being incorrectly positioned at the cutting point or having low beam energy. Cutting the same sheet requires us to set larger parameters when the laser beam is poorly formed. This requires the laser tube to work harder.
  3. Cooling system
    The RF laser tube does not need to worry too much in this respect, as it is air-cooled. However, during the use of the glass laser tube, we have to make sure that the water cooling tank is working and that the water flow is sufficient and flowing. The optimum operating temperature for laser tubes is 10-30°C.

Find a supplier you can trust

Suppose you have purchased a machine and need to replace your co2 laser tube. We recommend that you buy from the brand name of the machine first. If you can no longer find the original manufacturer, you can buy from a trusted manufacturer.

co2 laser tube

Gweike's CO2 laser tube offers you reliability at a great price. This 50w glass tube will meet the needs of most machines. If you have any questions during the installation process, you can contact our engineers directly, and they will guide you remotely online to know if the problem is solved.


We hope that this article on CO2 laser tubes will help you. You can contact us directly if you have any problems with your machine or DC (glass) or RF (metal) CO2 laser tube. We will give you expert advice and have our engineers on hand to guide you. 

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