ANALYSIS & OPINION

Laser World of Photonics round up - higher powers, additive manufacturing, and faster scanning

Laser World of Photonics 2015, held in Munich Germany - Credit Laser World of Photonics

More than one and a half of the five exhibition halls were devoted lasers and laser systems at Laser World of Photonics 2015, held in Munich, Germany from 22-25 June, with industrial research and products being unveiled left, right, and centre. With 30,000 attendees it made for a busy few days at Messe Munich.

Higher power laser systems are being built: Synrad demonstrated its new p400 CO2 pulsed laser, which is the first in the range to break the 1kW barrier in pulse energy. According to Christian Schauer, sales manager for Europe at the company, the p400 was attracting a lot of attention from the fabric and food processing industries for its ability to avoid heat damage to delicate materials while providing quick cutting and perforating.

Both Ophir and synthetic diamond producer, Element Six, were also seeing a drive towards higher power lasers for industrial processing, with the likes of IPG Photonics, Trumpf, JDSU, and Rofin exhibiting high power systems. Ophir was displaying its BeamWatch non-contact beam monitoring system for high power lasers, which has been used to measure powers up to 100kW, as well as a water-cooled energy sensor operating up to 6kW.

Element Six presented two papers at the conference on work fabricating moth-eye micro-patterns on diamond optical windows, which, according to the company, greatly enhances the laser induced damage threshold of the optics for multi-kilowatt lasers. Element Six expects this innovation to be a key enabler for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for semiconductor chip production, as these systems use high power CO2 lasers – laser system provider, Trumpf, is currently developing high power CO2 lasers for EUV steppers, a model of which was displayed at the show.

Laser 2000 displayed JDSU’s Corelight DLE-Series direct diode laser engine, capable of producing 2.1kW of power. The turnkey module offered the improved efficiency expected of direct diodes, as well as small form size, improved cutting quality, higher cutting speeds and easy integration.

Additive manufacturing was well represented across the exhibition floor with a designated focus area featuring companies such as Concept Laser, which demonstrated their capabilities within the dental industry.

Ophir Photonics was exhibiting laser beam profiling equipment used in an additive manufacturing project which aimed to develop laser sintering systems for use onboard submarines or on air bases to print spare parts on demand, rather than having to ship them from a manufacturing site. Ophir was providing profilers to analyse the beam used in the laser sintering machines.

Belgian company Materialise was showing its technology for printing anatomical models of the heart from medical image data. There was also a special start-up award for 3D printing, presented to Swiss company Femtoprint for its 3D production system for glass microdevices.

Lightweight and Light-made, Fraunhofer's 6ft exhibit

Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT was demonstrating vehicle axle elements produced for racing cars by selective laser melting. The components were designed in a lattice structure to make them light weight, and could be made 30 per cent stiffer using the additive manufacturing process.

With Laser World of Photonics falling halfway through the International Year of Light, the Fraunhofer stand was home to a 6ft structure spelling out the word 'light'. However, the message was twofold, as it was created using laser light, but was also light weight, having been constructed using porous materials to form the mesh structure using additive processes.

The Fraunhofer Institutes were out in force, needing two stands to house their offerings. The groups work with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mounted with mirrors held a lot of promise for future applications; the Institute for Silicon Technology has developed a coating that allows the fast-moving mirrors to withstand kilowatt powers, opening up applications in the cutting and welding of aluminium and sheet steel. Before this, MEMS mirrors had only been capable of dealing with milliwatts.

The next Laser World of Photonics will take place from 26 to 29 June 2017, once again in Munich, Germany.

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