The perfect laser beam
Today’s lasers for cutting applications are the best-selling industrial laser beam sources worldwide. At the same time, completely new cutting methods—for instance, perforations or the precise shaping of glass displays for mobile devices—are on the verge of entering industrial production. Current research is focused on increasing expertise in forming fiber-guided laser beams for sheet metal cutting and transferring that knowledge to damage-free glass cutting in the display industry as well as water-jet-guided precision cutting of small parts.
As part of the EU’s HALO project (“High power Adaptable Laser beams for materials processing”), scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT are working on distributing the laser beam’s intensity in a way that meets the highest quality requirements while conserving resources.
When it comes to cutting sheet metal, the laser is a well-established tool. In recent years, in addition to 2D applications, 3D machining of shaped components has been increasing across the board, in part because of the extensive use of the difficult-to-machine, high-strength, press-hardened steel, particularly in the field of car body engineering.
The laser tool has demonstrated its suitability for cutting other materials—such as semiconductors, glass, plastics and composite materials—and has already been introduced in the first applications. Tool wear, which can lead to decreased quality when using conventional cutting methods, does not occur with laser cutting. However, the cut edges of laser-machined components are still rougher than those of milled metal components, for example. This is partly because the laser beam often does not have the right form needed to achieve the best result for the application in question.
Optimization potential for laser cutting
A typical laser beam possesses a very high intensity at its center, which falls away in a bell shape to the sides. But a laser beam with such a Gaussian intensity distribution is not necessarily the ideal tool for every application. The latest research activities are focused on defining the right laser beam for cutting material of various types and thicknesses and tapping the resulting potential.
Better cutting quality, higher machining rate and profitability
This is where the EU’s HALO project (“High power Adaptable Laser beams for materials processing”) comes in. An international consortium has been working to develop application-specific beam formations. The project participants are customizing the laser beam’s intensity distribution for each individual use case. Ultimately, the laser systems are to be equipped so that users can perform practical tests.
HALO at at the LASER World of PHOTONICS 2015
The results of the HALO project will presented to the public for the first time as part of the “European Research on Laser Based Technologies” Forum at the LASER World of PHOTONICS 2015:
Prof. Wolfgang Schulz, Nonlinear Dynamics of Laser Processing NLD, RWTH Aachen University
“HALO—Real Time Adjustment of Laserbeam Properties for Optimum Process Results”
Hall A2, Stand 250, June 25, 2015, from 13:00 to 13:20
In addition, Fraunhofer ILT experts will be showing laser beam cutting processes for different materials in the macro and micro area as well as simulations of these processes at the at the LASER World of PHOTONICS (Munich, June 22–25, 2015), Fraunhofer Joint Stand—Hall A3, Stand 121.