Excimer "super laser" makes its mark

May 9, 2006
May 9, 2006, Hollis, NH--A 1-kW excimer laser developed at the Nederlands Centrum voor Laser Research (NCLR; Enschede, The Netherlands), and which has recently become available, will be distributed and serviced by J P Sercel Associates (JPSA).

May 9, 2006, Hollis, NH--A 1-kW excimer laser developed at the Nederlands Centrum voor Laser Research (NCLR; Enschede, The Netherlands), and which has recently become available, will be distributed and serviced by J P Sercel Associates (JPSA).

The Sirius 1000 is a radically new type of xenon chloride (XeCl) excimer laser that emits one joule per pulse at 1000 Hz with high beam quality, focusability, and sustainable, high UV power. It is well-suited to drilling clean, precise holes in metals and other hard and difficult materials.

"This is the highest-average-power UV excimer laser available for production use," noted Jeffrey Sercel, president of JPSA. "Due to its stable discharge and long 200 ns pulse, it has diffraction-limited beam divergence. It is very high brightness and is highly focusable. This means that extremely small and precisely defined features can be micromachined in a wide range of materials of greater thickness, and with better aspect ratios and at higher speeds than previously possible." The laser operates via x-ray pre-ionization and pre-pulse-main-pulse excitation with fast magnetic switching, among other advanced features.

NCLR is working with Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT) to develop aeroengine applications for the Sirius 1000 laser as part of the Joint Strike Fighter development program. The laser characteristics allow for the precise drilling of multiple holes in exotic materials. Pratt & Whitney is the prime engine contractor for the Joint Strike Fighter Program, and its F135 engine will power the first production models of the aircraft. Pending successful completion of the development program, a Sirius laser is expected to be used in the production of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

The high-brightness, high-quality UV beam of the Sirius 1000 allows the use of high-efficiency holographic beamsplitting optics, resulting in higher beam utilization factors of greater than 90%. Because of the exceptional beam quality, this laser is also used in the far field (the focal point of an imaging lens or axicon) rather than only the near field--a technological breakthrough, Sercel added. This corresponds into faster more precise drilling that was previously impractical with a conventional excimer laser. Use of an axicon, which provides an annular beam spot, enhances process efficiency, since the holes are effectively core-drilled with out wasting the energy normally used to remove the entire volume of the hole.

"It is now possible to drill holes, such as a 5 mm diameter straight hole drilled into 5 mm thick Kevlar or carbon fiber, with no heating, melting, or cracking," Sercel said. Better focusability and longer pulses allows the XeCl excimer to ablate up to ten times more material in a single pulse than other excimer lasers.

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