TeraDiode, an MIT Lincoln Laboratory spin out company, is commercialising a diode laser system that can cut through half an inch of steel while still benefitting from diode laser's increased efficiency when compared to other laser types. Until now, systems manufacturers have struggled to keep beams from diode lasers bright enough to cut such materials.
The 4kW TeraBlade uses a power-scaling technique developed at MIT that manipulates individual diode laser beams into a single output ray. This allows for boosting power of a diode laser, while preserving a focused beam.
In a press release, TeraDiode co-founder and vice president Robin Huang said: ‘[The TeraBlade] has comparable beam quality as compared with traditional manufacturing lasers, such as carbon dioxide, disk, and fibre. However, because the TeraBlade is a direct-diode laser, it has the highest efficiency and lowest cost of ownership as compared with these other lasers.’
The power-scaling technique is known as wavelength beam combining (WBC), or incoherent beam combining, developed by Huang and former Lincoln Laboratory researcher and TeraDiode co-founder Bien Chann, who is now the company’s vice president and chief technology officer.
An individual diode laser can emit a beam, in infrared and near-infrared wavelengths, that can be tightly focused to a very small spot, but with little power, Huang explained. Overlapping many similar beams at differing wavelengths, however, produces a beam that focuses on a small spot, making it very intense. And the number of overlapping beams with differing wavelengths can be very high.
Huang said in the release the company’s vision is to revolutionise the laser industry by introducing powerful direct-diode lasers to various applications across the globe. In April, the company began shipping its system to Panasonic Welding Systems in Europe and Japan. Other customers include top global builders of industrial laser-based machines and system integrators.
In the future, he added, the company is also looking toward defence applications. One idea is to build a laser that acts as a heat-seeking missile deterrent: it fires infrared laser light at the missile, which would confuse the missile’s programming, and cause it to lose its target. The laser’s compact design would allow it to be mounted on a fighter jet.