No sweat with the fast laser stuff

LaserWorldOfPhotonics_S

The last two Laser World of Photonics shows (2011 and 2013) in Munich were held in May instead of the traditional time in June. This timing is much more to my liking for three reasons. First, there are usually scheduling conflicts with other shows, most notably Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East in Boston. Second, the halls are much hotter in June than in May, and somehow the Germans have not really adapted to air conditioning! Third, May is Spargel season (white asparagus), which is officially over in early June and certainly adds a wonderful bonus when traveling there during this time.

This year, visitors were plentiful, what with four large halls full of exhibitors. I heard that they were turning vendors away this year and may add another hall to the next show.

But–about lasers! Two years ago, the main buzz at the show was fiber lasers. While fiber lasers are still very hot, at this year’s show, the real buzz was ultra fast pulse (UFP) lasers defined by me as having a pulse length less than 1 ns, so including primarily picosecond and femtosecond lasers. 

In preparing for the show, and also for an upcoming article in Industrial Laser Solutions (July/August issue), I asked more than 15 companies involved in UFP micromachining to fill out a specification sheet about their products. While I tried to remain objective in the selection of companies I asked to respond, certainly there may be some bias based upon personal experience. However, walking the show, it became pretty obvious that there were MANY more companies getting into this field than I had previously thought or even suspected. 

Some observations include:

  1. More and more companies are jumping into this market.
  2. High power output was available in more compact packages; several companies exhibited multi-kW UFP lasers in desktop packages.
  3. Companies were promoting 'clean' pulses and no ASE (amplified stimulated emission).

Another area to keep our eyes on is the direct diode business. Direct Photonics, for instance, displayed a 2 kW laser in a very compact package. The big competition, of course, is between direct diodes and fiber lasers, with industry experts (including some members of the ILS Editorial Review Board) coming down on both sides of the fence. 

The debate is still going strong about whether direct diodes or fiber lasers will be king…. Look for renewed debate in Munich 2015, and, with the air conditioning turned off, it should be a good sweaty one!

I just read Dave Belforte’s blog on the show and it appears we are singing approximately the same song – unrehearsed!

I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, or entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at rschaeffer@photomachining.com.


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