Laser processing of glass has high growth potential

Dec. 12, 2013
A large group of researchers and manufacturers exchanged ideas on developments in laser processing of glass at a recent workshop at Laser Zentrum Hannover.

Hannover, Germany - At the November workshop at Laser Zentrum Hannover called "Laser Processing of Glass Materials," more than 70 researchers, users, and manufacturers exchanged ideas on current developments and trends in glass processing using the laser as state-of-the-art in many industrial areas.

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Laser processing of glass has high growth potential

As in the past, the laser has a high potential in current technology fields, for example, display manufacturing for cell phones, where thinner hardened glass needs to be precisely cut without damaging it.

Ultrashort pulse lasers (USP) are a promising tool for this application. They already provide high quality cutting at speeds over 500 mm/s. Scientists and manufacturers are presently working intensively on increasing processing speeds and simultaneously guaranteeing a high processing quality for thinner and thinner glass. If they can meet the increasing requirements being placed on processing display glass and qualifying the processes, including, for example, sapphire and other glass materials, glass processing using lasers could further expand on the world market for cell phones.

Processes for laser structuring and drilling of glass materials for facade construction and interior design are also interesting. Flat glass is used as a design element, or as a functionalized, anti-slip surface for bathrooms. Scientists are presently facing the challenge of developing innovative, high power lasers, which are more economical for processing large areas of flat glass.

Apart from cutting processes, glass welding with and without filler material is growing in importance. The requirements placed on the strength of laser welded seams for quartz and borosilicate glass have been achieved, and the process rates have been shortened. Scientists are now working on optimizing the powder use rates, on avoiding thermal post-processing and on extending the welding processes to 3-D glass components. This should also greatly expand the application potential.

In summary, the lectures and discussions of the workshop showed that laser processing of glass materials has a great potential. Among the lecturers and participants were representatives from the field of manufacturing, who presented different systems, from excimer to femtosecond lasers, and who could gather new ideas and impulses in discussions with the scientists and the users.

Following the lectures, the participants were given the opportunity to participate in a tour, where they saw a live demonstration of glass welding using a filler material (see photo above). The lectures and the tour offered much material for discussion during the breaks and the following get-together.

The workshop has been organized since 2010 by the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Bavarian Laser Center GmbH, and it alternately takes place each year either in Erlangen or in Hannover.

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