Fiber lasers improve rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping (also called generative manufacturing) is evolving from polymer-based prototyping to metal-based prototyping, thanks to the development of titanium, stainless, aluminum, and cobalt-chrome powders that can be melted or “sintered” one layer at a time using a laser.

Rapid prototyping (also called generative manufacturing) is evolving from polymer-based prototyping to metal-based prototyping, thanks to the development of titanium, stainless, aluminum, and cobalt-chrome powders that can be melted or “sintered” one layer at a time using a laser. Research being conducted by SPI Lasers (Southampton, England) is now showing that rapid prototyping can be further improved by the better surface finish and increased fill density made possible by fiber lasers.

Compared to conventional carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers, fiber lasers have a beam waist up to four times smaller (or 16 times the power-density) at the focal point. Using power levels of 200 W at 1070 nm, fiber lasers can produce 100% dense parts that exhibit 10 times the tensile strength of parts manufactured using CO2 lasers. The temporal and spatial stability of fiber lasers contributes to an overall improvement in the layer uniformity as metal parts are being fabricated, while the energy-efficiency and compactness of fiber lasers make them attractive options for industrial-prototyping environments. Contact Steve Norman at steve.norman@spilasers.com.

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