Industrial lasers shine at Photonics West
SAN JOSE, Calif. – According to Tesko
Laser, a company in the Chicagoland area
that provides laser cutting and metal fabricating services, industrial lasers can slice
through the hardest materials and make the
most precise cuts with the narrowest heat-affected zones and with burr-free edges.
However, they typically cost more than
plasma, oxy-fuel (that is, burns oxygen
with gaseous fuel) and waterjet systems
and have trouble cutting reflective materials such as aluminum and copper. They
also have problems cutting thick materials,
although this is not necessarily a disadvan-
tage because the majority of sheet metal is
less than 2 mm thick.
Traditionally, Nd:YAG lasers have been
used for detail work, and CO lasers have
been used for big jobs. Both have proven
track records, but diode lasers offer greater
energy efficiency and substantially lower
Laser cutting options
In January at Photonics West, Coherent
showed a 1-kW direct-diode laser called
the Highlight 1000F. The laser is coupled
to a fiber and has a small, slender profile
that can fit on a tabletop, so it can be
moved to work around tight spots. It can
be cooled with tap water.
According to Marcus Noble, who markets products on behalf of Coherent, the
laser is designed “to cut the sheet metal of
our daily lives.” It also works well for
welding, cladding and heat-treating.
Disk lasers are another alternative to
traditional industrial lasers. This type of
laser literally has a thin disk as the lasing
medium. These lasers are powerful. In
fact, Boeing recently used one in a military demonstration to shoot down an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Trumpf displayed its disk laser, the
TruDisk 4002, at the recent Photonics
West. This laser incorporates a new cooling system based on constant circulation
of water through microchannels. Because
of this cooling system, the laser is more
compact, the diodes have changed, and it
can be offered at a lower price, according
to a company representative. Previously
lasting 20,000 hours, it now lasts more
than 50,000 hours. The representative said
that it can run off tap water or even antifreeze for welding pipelines in Alaska.
The laser provides a maximum power
of 16 k W. The diodes are sold in stacks of
4 kW, so that customers can choose to use
more or less power, depending on the application, or save money by buying only
one or two stacks to begin with, with the
idea in mind that they can always buy
more stacks later if they need to upgrade.
It has four outputs with fiber optic cables, which is a feature that the auto industry wanted. This enables factory workers to move the fiber to another output if
David L. Shenkenberg