Ultrashort pulse (USP) lasers have become firmly established in science and micromachining. Since multi-100-watt USP lasers up into the kW range have become available, the industry is looking at them with great interest for large-area applications. For this purpose, the institute is developing the complete process chain right through to fully digitized processes.
Already at the beginning of the event, Dr. Arnold Gillner told the participants "The USP laser has found its way into the industry". Gillner is head of the Ablation and Joining competence area at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT. The next goal is to provide lasers with power as is the case with CO2 and fiber lasers, which are currently used for material processing of macroscopic components.
Carbide drills can be produced fully automatically from simple blanks. The machine receives blanks and geometry data – the laser parameters are automatically selected.
"The challenge is how to get the photons to the workpiece," Gillner describes.
Many innovative technologies for this were recently presented: The latest examples range from new laser beam sources through fast scanner systems and new beam shaping concepts all the way to fully automated and digitized processes.
Lasers up to 100 W have now made it to the market, systems with several 100 W are available and are already being integrated into the first machines. Soon to be added are USP lasers in the multi-kW range, such as those developed by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Optics and Precision Mechanics IOF in Jena and Laser Technology ILT in Aachen in the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence "Advanced Photon Sources". Both institutes have set new world records in recent months: The Jena group demonstrated 3.5 kW average output power from a fiber laser system and the Aachen 500 W at only 30 fs pulse duration from a Yb:Innoslab laser.
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Altogether, 12 institutes are working in the Fraunhofer Cluster "Advanced Photon Sources". Together, they want to make newly developed beam sources available along with corresponding system technology for a wide variety of applications in two application labs in Jena and Aachen.
"The laser makes a continuous process chain for digital photonic production possible" – this is the vision of the outgoing director of Fraunhofer ILT, Prof. Reinhart Poprawe. Not only is a close integration of the various processes required here, but also a deep understanding of the process and a fast and efficient simulation of the laser-material interactions. Markus Niessen from Fraunhofer ILT discussed the usual approaches and how to cut the computational time dramatically with a reduced model. Microscopic interaction processes and material effects are considered separately from macroscopic effects. In the long term, Niessen has a clear strategy: "Our goal is right-first-time production."
The progress of the USP laser technology can now be read off the quality of the applications. This is also the case for Claus Dold, EWAG AG, an expert in the manufacture of tools made of ultra-hard materials. He explains how well the USP laser can process polycrystalline diamonds or carbide materials. Especially for the production of carbide drills, he presents a complete manufacturing system, where the operator only has to enter the geometrical data and insert blanks. The laser machine itself selects the necessary settings and produces the drills with micrometer precision. The machines can be fully automated and operated in a global network. In a digital marketplace, production capacities can be controlled globally and adapted to demand.
The USP laser technology is increasingly becoming accepted by the industry. After glass cutting and applications in measuring and medical technology, the large-surface processing of surfaces is gaining ground.
COMPAMED-tradefair.com; Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT