Laser processing head with smarts

A new beam tool developed by Limo as part of a research project has led to a new compact laser head with a zoom function. This delivers a processing flexibility capable of handling a wide range of surface types.

The head measures 148mm long with a diameter of 50mm and is enclosed in an aluminum housing. As part of the ALPS project, this laser zoom processing head was developed at the Dortmund-based Limo Lissotschenko Mikrooptik as a new beam shaping module for surface processing. Though the prototype is no more than half the size of the typical baton used by relay runners, it converts a continuous output of 1.0kW or a maximum short-time output of 2.5kW from glass fibre to a line focus – despite its miniature dimensions.

The new zoom tool can be used to make specific modifications to the line length during processing. This means that the laser beam can be set to trace contours or adapted to fit individual workpieces. The ability to quickly and easily adjust the zoom during processing decreases the amount of setup time required. This results in greater process flexibility and therefore also enables economical laser processing of workpieces in small batch sizes.

Initially developed for the production of solar cells, this concept could also be used in laser plastic welding to adapt the line width (0.2mm to 0.6mm) or length (4mm to 12mm) to individual workpieces – without switching the laser or replacing the processing head. The laser head is particularly beneficial where lasers are used to weld plastics, since it allows even those parts to be welded which have varying widths along the weld seam. Because of its compact and lightweight design, the new beam tool can also be mounted on a robot arm or translation stage.

Using this concept as a starting point, Limo is currently working to develop additional beam shaping modules for outputs of 6kW and 10kW. Thanks to a motorized zoom adjustment feature, these modules will also be suitable for automated processes and capable of handling larger, freely variable profiles (incl. adjustability on two axes). In addition to plastic welding, this compact technology can also be used in metal hardening and roll cladding.

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