Innovations at LASER 2019
Ideas submitted for the 2019 Innovation Award in the area of lasers and laser systems for production have one goal in common: The tool should be more flexible and more precise.
Beam shaping is a central theme. Cailabs from Rennes in France achieve a stable, needle-sharp rectangular (50 x 50 µm) beam output with its Multi Plane Light Conversion (MPLC) for industrial ultrashort pulse lasers. LIMO presents a new beam transformation technology with a sGaussian (sG) short-axis profile, which will be used mainly in Laser Lift Off (LLO) processes to manufacture flexible OLED displays. Thanks to ultra-homogeneous intensity distribution, the system enables up to 30 percent more throughput with the same laser power. On top of this, it reduces the heat affected zones to increase display quality.
User-friendly approaches in the ultrashort pulse area
ERLAS is introducing a flexible processing head with automatically replaceable dot geometries for coating, hardening, and keyhole welding. Inside, four mirrors are mounted on a servo-driven rotor that ensure an appropriate beam shape and size. The dot geometry can be changed during processing, which is an advantage especially with complex components. GFH also combines flexibility and precision in a system for 5-axis simultaneous processing that can be used for microdrilling and cutting, engraving, and laser turning. Thanks to a component quick-changing system, refitting takes only a few seconds.
To make the advantages of ultrashort pulse (USP) technology available for more user groups, neoLASE has introduced a modular platform that enables high variability in pulse width, repetition rate, and pulse shapes from the same laser system due to the simple replacement of the seed laser. Users can easily change between pico and femtosecond applications. Pulsar Photonics also has an eye on USP processes with its Flexible Beam Shaper. It combines an electronically controlled phase modulator with a classic galvanometer scanner and can vary beam distribution within milliseconds. Processes can be parallelized if the phase modulator is used as a beam splitter. The number and configuration of the partial beams can also be changed individually to implement 3D beam distribution. For users it is a multi-functional tool for many different laser processes in which a digitally configured processing head is replaced with several replaceable heads.
Photonics 4.0 becomes a reality
The concept points in the direction of Photonics 4.0 as does an innovation from QiOVA. With its patented multibeam technology, the expert for laser beam shaping has created a type of programmable mask for laser beams. 2D barcodes and logos can be “stamped” on to workpieces with a laser pulse. While current scan systems manage about ten codes per second, with a marking duration in the single-digit nanosecond range, it is possible to mark hundreds or thousands of parts individually per second. This allows small parts in microelectronics to be tracked, which is very important in Industry 4.0.
Focus on additive manufacturing and difficult materials
In laser machining of copper and other very reflective metals, wavelengths are the key to precision and efficiency. Especially interesting: The blue wavelength range around 450 nm in which NUBURU and Laserline will present two innovations. NUBURUS AO-500 with 500 watts power amalgamates several individual collimated GaN chips to achieve high beam quality (<30 mm mrad). Laserline’s diode laser LDMblue is the first blue laser to reach the kW range: 1,000 W continuous-wave mode. With consideration of mass production of electric engines in the automotive industry, both approaches promise a lot of potential.
As well as electric mobility, additive manufacturing is another driver of innovation. The Fraunhofer ILT has developed a camera-based system to optimize laser deposition welding. For each laser the powder gas beam is illuminated so the camera system can capture the particle density distribution—and derive parameters to optimize the nozzles and process parameters. On the other hand, nLIGHT has an eye on additive powder bed technology with the Corona fiber laser. Corona combines a wide range of beam sizes and shapes with real-time programming and a small footprint because the beam characteristic is tuned completely within the glass fiber. The benefits of this technology will be evident in 3D printing and many other areas of material processing. This is also the aim of Advanced Fiber Resources with the Free Clearcut™ System. These are laser fibers in which Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) enables wavelength-selective reflection of the laser. The special feature of the Chinese solution ensures that the system needs no external stabilization or cooling and can still absorb 2 kW pump power and 1.5 kW signal power.