Bright future anticipated for DPSS lasers

June 3, 2024
If DPSS lasers overtake excimer lasers, Lithuania is prepared to embrace the shift.

Manufacturers face a critical challenge: excimer lasers, long relied upon in semiconductor manufacturing, are now struggling to keep pace with modern technology due to their limitations in performance and cost-effectiveness. However, a new challenger has emerged in the form of diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) lasers. 

The global solid-state laser market has experienced a 4.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2018 and is projected to maintain a 3.2% CAGR until 2035. Estimated at USD $3.50 billion in 2023, the market is projected to grow to USD $6.42 billion by 2030. The global excimer laser market was valued at USD $0.5 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD $1.2 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 10.3% during the forecast period. Their expanding applications, from semiconductor chip manufacturing to eye surgery, are currently driving market growth. 

Although the CAGR of solid-state lasers is lower than that of excimer lasers, the DPSS laser market is already significantly larger. Sales for DPSS lasers covering shorter wavelengths in UV and deep-UV (DUV) ranges are growing much faster than 10%. Heavy investments are made to increase these lasers' power, stability, and lifetime to open markets traditionally driven exclusively by excimer lasers, such as mass transfer in display production. Market leaders like Coherent are entering this space, and have introduced a new DPSS laser last year as an alternative to their excimer laser in OLED display production. Deep-UV DPSS laser demand is driven not only by excimer laser limitations, but also by enabling higher precision processes for the semiconductor inspection market. It hints at the idea that some market players can soon be lagging behind the emerging trend of switching to DPSS lasers. 

Shorter wavelengths in the DUV range enable higher precision methods for semiconductor inspection. As operational costs drop, it will benefit consumers and a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, alternative energy, environmental monitoring, and communications. U.S.-headquartered corporations dominate this market, but Japanese companies are offering more compelling options every year, particularly with DUV DPSS laser alternatives. Multiple European companies are also entering this market.

Display manufacturing is also undergoing a shift as DPSS UV and DUV lasers are emerging as replacements for excimer lasers. The next step is laser lift-off (LLO), which is crucial for various industries, offering precise material separation using lasers. In flexible display manufacturing, it also enables the clean removal of thin film layers, which helps to create such devices as foldable phones. In microelectronics fabrication, it ensures the precise removal of layers like gallium nitride (GaN), enhancing component quality. LLO also reduces manufacturing costs by minimizing substrate damage and waste generation. 

The industry is increasingly recognizing the benefits of DPSS lasers, prompting a surge in the introduction of alternative LLO systems incorporating this innovative technology. This trend is likely driven by the potential benefits of DPSS lasers, such as their compactness, efficiency, and tunability, which can lead to improved performance and precision in LLO applications. The rise of micro-LED displays, a next-generation display technology known for its superior image quality and brightness, is another key driver behind the shift toward DPSS lasers. Micro-LEDs require even more precise and controlled laser processing compared to traditional displays. 

DPSS lasers’ reliability, beam quality, and tunability align with this emerging technology, highlighting the increasingly apparent constraints of excimer lasers. This shift reflects the ongoing need for innovation in display manufacturing to keep pace with the demands of cutting-edge technologies like micro-LED.

DPSS lasers serve various markets beyond semiconductor manufacturing due to their precision and versatility. They’re used in micromachining for cutting and drilling materials, material processing for marking and welding, remote sensing for autonomous vehicles, and topographic mapping.

Femtosecond DPSS lasers are already proven in ophthalmology procedures like LASIK and SMILE. And, now some companies are betting heavily on DUV DPSS lasers to offer an alternative to excimer lasers for LASEK and PRK procedures.

These versatile lasers also find applications in space exploration, as highlighted by Japan's innovative use of DPSS lasers in a ground-based system to remove space debris. This sort of application reveals the potential for DPSS lasers to contribute significantly to space technology and safety, opening new avenues for research and application in space exploration and environmental protection.

Lithuania is also poised to play a significant role in the global adoption of DPSS lasers by focusing on the production of DPSS lasers because we see the benefits of this new technology. DPSS lasers offer several advantages over excimer lasers in various applications. With superior beam quality, DPSS lasers ensure precise and intricate material processing. DPSS lasers are more energy-efficient and require less maintenance, leading to minimized downtime and reduced operational costs. Their solid-state design allows for easier integration into systems, as they are more compact than excimer lasers.

As DPSS lasers continue to demonstrate their versatility across various industries, our local manufacturers, including Altechna, are prepared to embrace the evolving market. With a focus on DPSS lasers, we have honed our expertise over the years, positioning ourselves advantageously within the industry. This strategic shift positions Lithuania to be a serious player in the global context of laser production.

About the Author

Antanas Laurutis

Antanas Laurutis is CEO of Altechna, a Lithuania-based company specializing in custom laser optics and optomechanical assemblies for high-powered laser production.

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