Making ultrafast lasers faster

Lasers with ultrashort pulses in the picosecond and femtosecond range are known for their ultra-precise ablation and cutting results. A consortium of six partners from industry and research is planning the next step in the development of the USP-laser process technology. They will develop a powerful 1 kW laser source and combine it with a special optical system that delivers a pattern of more than 60 switchable beamlets. One can see this as a late descendant of the dot-matrix printer.
The consortium consists of the research institute Fraunhofer ILT and the RWTH Aachen University from Germany as well as Amplitude Systèmes, LASEA France, AA Opto-Electronic from France and LASEA from Belgium as industrial research and development partners. The European Commission is supporting the project, named “MultiFlex”, within the framework of the program ICT-04-2018 for three years with an amount of € 4.7 million.
The partners intend to deliver a prototype with all the necessary control technology ready for the shop floor. It will start with a 1 kW laser machine that can deliver up to 1 mJ pulse energy either at the regular 1 MHz repetition rate or in a burst mode with less than 20 ns pulse separation. It has already been estimated that the prototype will improve the productivity by about 100 fold compared to current standard ultrafast laser processing systems.

Figure: Surface textures on tool steel fabricated by means of ultrafast laser radiation. © Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.