The improving characteristics of power, efficiency, wavelength, intensity and quality of CO2 and Nd:YAG sources have continuously widened the range of the cost/effective utilisation of the technology to manufacturing. The number of applications of laser to welding and surface treatments albeit growing remains rather restricted for the time being. To enable the widespread use of efficient automated laser material processing systems in manufacturing it is necessary for the cost and size of laser systems to go down and for the efficiency and reliability to go up. High power diode lasers (HPDL) offer the potential for this to happen in a major way. Compared to traditional sources HPDL are advantageous in terms of efficiency, maintenance and output power modularity. A further advantage which concern the previous processes lies in the higher absorption at metallic surfaces compared to CO2 and even Nd:YAG lasers. Their compact size and the rapidly decreasing costs (possibly aiming towards $10/watt) are likely to make HPDL achieve a major breakthrough in industrial applications. For this to happen one has to overcome their critical limit, which is the low beam quality. With the currently available HPDL sources it is difficult to obtain a small spot sizes and with such spot sizes only a few of the considered processes can be carried out, all are slowed down. The goal of the project therefore is to develop a new laser source of suitable output power (3 kW), brightness and efficiency such as to provide enough power intensity to support the above processes in a cost effective way. The new device will then be applied to these processes with the purpose of qualifying both the source and the processes. It is hoped by this approach to accelerate the diffusion of the technology. Preliminary process studies will also be performed using the commercially available HPDL source, which will have lower power (0.5-1.5 kW) and lower beam quality.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
BS35 7QW Bristol