Research and development carried out by the ISF Welding and Joining Institute of RWTH Aachen University has proven that combining high power laser and low vacuum atmosphere provides a welding performance and quality, which is comparable to electron beam welding. The developed welding machines are still using a beam forming which takes place outside the vacuum and the focusing laser beam has to be introduced to the vacuum via a suitable window. This inflexible design spoils much of the flexibility of modern laser welding. With the target to bring a compact, lightweight flying optics with flexible laser transport fibers into vacuum chambers, a high power fiber-fiber coupler has been adapted by II-VI HIGHYAG that includes a reliable vacuum interface. The vacuum-fiber-fiber coupler (V-FFC) is tested with up to 16 kW sustained laser power and the design is flexible in terms of a wide variety of laser fiber plug systems and vacuum flanges. All that is needed to implement the V-FFC towards an existing or planned vacuum chamber is an aperture of at least 100 mm (4 inch) diameter with any type of vacuum or pressure flange. The V-FFC has a state-of-the-art safety interface which allows for fast fiber breakage detection for both fibers (as supported by fibers) by electric wire breakage and short circuit detection. Moreover, the System also provides connectors for cooling and electric signals for the laser beam optics inside the vacuum. The V-FFC has all necessary adjustment options for coupling the laser radiation to the receiving fiber.
Axel Heinrici, Goran Bjelajac, Jeroen Jonkers, Stefan Jakobs, Simon Olschok, and Uwe Reisgen, "Vacuum fiber-fiber coupler," Proc. SPIE 10097, High-Power Laser Materials Processing: Applications, Diagnostics, and Systems VI, 100970F (Presented at SPIE LASE: February 01, 2017; Published: 22 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2250335.
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