Researchers have established ultrashort pulse lasers as a new tool for industrial production with virtually unlimited possibilities. The ultrashort pulse laser, which emits up to 24,000 pulses of incredibly high energy in a fraction of a second, processes almost any material gently, precisely and with high productivity. It drills ultrafine holes in metal and can also cut through ultrathin plastic foil, brittle ceramic components and diamonds.
"With the ultrashort pulse laser we've opened a door into a new realm -- and we won't know its precise size or full details about it for a very long time," says Dr. Peter Leibinger, Vice Chairman of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG and President of the Laser Technology and Electronics Division. "That is why micro-processing using lasers like these is a production technology of the future."
Micro-holes in stainless steel. Ultrashort pulse lasers show great use potential for the highly-precise structuring of a wide range of materials, in particular metals.
The technology has long proven its industrial suitability in three-shift operations across wide variety applications with constant quality and precision. At this point, the technology is entering new sectors of mass production and replacing conventional methods such as mechanical drilling, eroding or chemical etching. Entirely new products that were impossible to make previously can now be manufactured using the ultrashort pulse laser.
The process is unique in that that there is no heat transferred to the material and no residue after processing. This is because the ultrashort pulse only heats the material locally, and so intensely that it is ejected and vaporized before the heat can be transferred. This enables areas just a few micrometers in diameter to be ablated -- with no melt residue, no heat-affected zone and, consequently, no need for refinishing.
The next generation of ultrashort pulse lasers is already being produced at TRUMPF. Femtosecond lasers, with even shorter pulse durations, will apply the benefits of this technology to even smaller structures to further broaden its range of possibilities. The technology's potential, therefore, is only just starting to be realized.
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