Sparkle Optics licenses open laser architecture

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA--To pass the cost benefit to ultraviolet (UV) laser manufacturers and users in research and industry, Sparkle Optics Corporation (www.sparkleoptics.com) introduced an Open Architecture Laser system at Photonics West 2010.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA--To pass the cost benefit to ultraviolet (UV) laser manufacturers and users in research and industry, Sparkle Optics Corporation (www.sparkleoptics.com) introduced an Open Architecture Laser system at Photonics West 2010. The heart of the Open Architecture Laser is a rotary disk laser generator, which is sold with a license. The license allows the user to freely build rotary disk lasers of any type using the Sparkle Optics rotary disk laser generators.

UV lasers from 206 to 355 nm are workhorses for many precision materials processing applications such as via hole drilling, solar cell fabrication, and nanolithography. Production throughput is very important for these high-volume applications and high power (> 10 W) UV laser sources are needed. But high-power UV lasers are also very expensive (> $100,000 each for each UV wavelength) because UV generation requires solid-state lasers with three properties: high average power, high peak power, and excellent beam quality, which cannot be met with fiber lasers or thin disk lasers. These high-power UV lasers are built with rod and slab lasers, which require very sophisticated and expensive resonators as they are operating at their technical limit. That makes the cost of driver lasers very high, which in turn makes the cost of ownership of UV lasers very high.

The rotary disk laser easily attains the three performance attributes by a very efficient and proprietary thermal management system that uses active cooling of the gain medium. Theoretical predictions show that rotary disk lasers are able to scale to higher power levels than thin disk, slab, or fiber lasers [Basu, paper 7578–13, Photonics West 2010]. Sparkle Optics has introduced the rotary disk laser technology to the Air Force Research Laboratory under several SBIR contracts, where it has shown to scale to very high power. The Boeing Company has obtained a license from Sparkle Optics to evaluate rotary disk laser technology for 100 kW class laser system development.

In the commercial arena, rotary disk lasers have produced record-setting powers (214 W at 1030 nm, 87 W at 515 nm and 55 W at 343 nm) with excellent beam quality [Laser Focus World article, 2008]. The power levels are expected to scale by at least an order of magnitude making high power UV lasers (> 100 W) a reality. Because of its inherent technical edge, the cost of making UV lasers is also drastically reduced using rotary disk laser generators.

Open architecture cost benefit

The heart of Sparkle Optics' Open Architecture Laser system is a rotary disk laser generator sold with a license. The license allows the user to freely build rotary disk lasers of any type using the Sparkle Optics rotary disk laser generators, which are similar to a microprocessor. Just as computers with many different configurations can be made using the same microprocessor, the user can make many lasers using a Sparkle Optics rotary disk laser generator. Ten models are available that operate at 946, 1030, 1064, 1319, and 1550 nm fundamental wavelengths. The manufacturers are able to build laser products using these models.

The following example shows the cost benefit to the user: A 10 W UV laser at 355 nm can be built using the 1030–150P rotary disk laser generator, which costs $38,900. Sparkle Optics supplies each rotary disk laser generator with an Open Architecture Laser motherboard, which allows the user to build up a UV laser. To build a 10 W UV laser, the user will need a 150 W laser diode from any laser diode manufacturer (est. cost $12,000), a laser resonator (est. cost $1,000), a Q-switch (est. cost $3,000), nonlinear optical crystals such as LBO with mounts (est. cost $5,000) and commercial chillers (est. cost $1,500). The total hardware cost of building a 10 W UV laser is only $61,400. The cost of building a 20 W UV laser is similarly only $70,500, which is at least 30% less than the cost of owning any other 20 W UV laser.

The strength of the Open Architecture Laser goes beyond reducing the cost of a 20 W UV laser at 343 nm. The user gets the license to build any type of rotary disk laser with the same rotary disk laser generator. The user can easily operate the 20 W UV laser in the visible (est. 35 W at 515 nm) using the same motherboard without requiring any other investment. With an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for some more nonlinear optical crystals, the user is able to convert the 20 W UV laser at 343 nm to operate at 258 nm (with an est. 10 W of power) for drilling even smaller holes, or to operate at 206 nm (to replace excimer lasers for deep UV nanolithography). To sum it all up, an investment of only $80,000 in a Sparkle Optics Open Architecture Laser gives the user the capability to own three high-power UV lasers (206, 258, and 343 nm), one visible laser (515 nm) and one infrared laser (1030 nm) on a time-shared basis.

For more information on the Open Architecture Laser, send an email to [email protected]

--Santanu Basu,
CEO and President,
Sparkle Optics Corporation


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