Laser technology trends

Jan. 1, 2009
Companies like IPG Photonics and Trumpf have worked hard in 2008 to expand their technology offering to include gas, solid-state, and fiber lasers, clearly recognizing the “one-stop-shopping” mantra of offering a range of laser technologies for their customers.

Companies like IPG Photonics and Trumpf have worked hard in 2008 to expand their technology offering to include gas, solid-state, and fiber lasers, clearly recognizing the “one-stop-shopping” mantra of offering a range of laser technologies for their customers. While CO2 lasers may be great for rapidly cutting stainless steel, technology advances in fiber lasers and ultrafast lasers mean that these technologies are rapidly making inroads into gas, Nd:YAG, and Ti:sapphire laser territory, as well as enabling new applications such as textile seaming (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/332968), and in the case of ultrafast lasers, microfluidic device machining, semiconductor and PV singulation and patterning, and tissue imaging (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/341575). “As prices decrease, solid-state lasers are becoming a common replacement for bulkier and less-efficient gas lasers in some of the fastest-growing markets such as biomedical and materials processing,” says Amr Khalil, product line manager at Edmund Optics (Barrington, NJ). “HeNe and argon ion lasers are declining roughly 5-10% annually, but will continue to be used in certain applications where coherence length is important such as phototypesetting and image processing.”

But no one can argue that one of the biggest technology trends for lasers (and everything photonics, for that matter) in 2008 was their role as an energy efficient “green” technology. Besides assisting the PV market in solar-cell processing, lasers are becoming commonplace in supporting display manufacturing for both legacy and improved wall-plug-efficiency technologies such as organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and flexible e-paper displays (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/330416) and are moving closer to being demonstrated as viable ignition sources for laser fusion with “...the potential to revolutionize our energy future” in the words of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who toured the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in November 2008 and was briefed on an even more ambitious high-power energy project, Laser Inertial Confinement Fusion-Fission Energy, or LIFE (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/346691).

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