Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization who recently developed a new hybrid 3D printing method, is currently developing a range of ultrashort pulse (USP) lasers, used within 3D printing processes such as SLA.
This venture is part of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence, which includes engineers and materials scientists together with the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF. The cluster ultimately aims to achieve international technological leadership in laser systems. Professor Reinhart Poprawe, Director of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence stated:
“Together we target the development of a disruptive technology that will help expanding the applications for laser technology significantly – from the scaling of ultraprecise manufacturing processes to the development of new pulse duration and wavelength ranges for research.”
Developing USP technology
In its efforts to reach maximum performance USP lasers, the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence has sought out the Argonne National Laboratory based in Chicago with the intentions of utilizing its Advanced Photon Sources (APS) – a synchrotron light source that produces high-energy, high-brightness x-ray beams.
USP lasers are known to produce high-powered and highly-focused light beams in short burst ranging from 1 nanosecond (ns) or shorter. Although typically used in micromachining, USP lasers’ ability to process virtually all materials coupled with the high intensities of APS has formed the basis for the development of this new generation of industrial lasers.
The current performance of a 100-Watt class USP laser was tested at the user facility of Fraunhofer ILT which failed to fully cut ultra-hard ceramic materials and fiber-reinforced plastics. With this application-based investigation, partners of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence are working to increase the average power of the USP sources by 2022 to the 10 Kilowatt range – exceeding the power of conventional lasers by one order of magnitude.
With a budget of about 10 million euros for the first three years, the partners are also working on the required system technology and additional applications, such as medical technologies, i.e. lasers for eye surgeries.
Through the development of ultraprecise lasers for industrial manufacturing, the partners believe that new opportunities will arise for imaging biological samples or in the semiconductor field as well as for lithography.
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Featured image shows combined USP fiber lasers of the kW class, as they are made available in the user facility at Fraunhofer IOF. Photo via Fraunhofer IOF.