Next-generation industrial fiber lasers enable challenging applications that cannot be addressed with legacy fiber lasers. Key features of next-generation fiber lasers include robust back-reflection protection, high power stability, wide power tunability, high-speed modulation and waveform generation, and facile field serviceability. These capabilities are enabled by high-performance components, particularly pump diodes and optical fibers, and by advanced fiber laser designs. We summarize the performance and reliability of nLIGHT diodes, fibers, and next-generation industrial fiber lasers at power levels of 500 W – 8 kW. We show back-reflection studies with up to 1 kW of back-reflected power, power-stability measurements in cw and modulated operation exhibiting sub-1% stability over a 5 – 100% power range, and high-speed modulation (100 kHz) and waveform generation with a bandwidth 20x higher than standard fiber lasers. We show results from representative applications, including cutting and welding of highly reflective metals (Cu and Al) for production of Li-ion battery modules and processing of carbon fiber reinforced polymers.
We demonstrate flexible performance in a fiber MOPA system based on nLIGHT’s PFL seed laser platform and chirally coupled core (3C®) fiber. The 33μm core, 27μm MFD 3C fiber used in these demonstrations is fabricated in volume at nLIGHT’s Finland facility. A variety of pulse formats are amplified to nonlinearity-limited peak power <300kW, including single pulses in the 50ps to 1ns regime at a variety of repetition rates from 10’s of kHz to MHz. Beam quality in these 3C based MOPAs is exceptional with M2<1.15 and circularity <95% at all power levels. Beam pointing often evident in other LMA fiber technologies due to higher order mode content is minimal in these fiber MOPAs. Burst mode operation of the seed laser system using flexible burst packet repetition rates (10’s of kHz to several MHz) and adjustable pulse-to-pulse spacing within bursts (<10ns to 100ns) is demonstrated and amplified in the same 3C fibers. Bursts of up to ten 50ps pulses amplified to total energies exceeding 160μJ are demonstrated at 200kHz burst repetition rate and 32W average power at high efficiency (74% slope). Bursts of up to five 500ps pulses are also amplified to up to 360μJ total energy. In both cases, the varying degree of pulse saturation win a burst and mitigation paths are reviewed.
We demonstrate a robust, compact, low-cost, pulsed, linearly polarized, 1064 nm, Yb:fiber laser system capable of generating ~100 kW peak power pulses and >17 W average power at repetition rates of 80 – 285 kHz. The system employs a configurable microchip seed laser that provides nanosecond (~1.0 – 1.5 ns) pulse durations. The seed pulses are amplified in an all-fiber, polarization maintaining, large mode area (LMA) fiber amplifier optimized for high peak power operation. The LMA Yb:fiber amplifier enables near diffraction limited beam quality at 100 kW peak power. The seed laser, fiber amplifier, and beam delivery optics are packaged into an air-cooled laser head of 152×330×87 mm3 with pump power provided from a separate air-cooled laser controller. Due to the high peak power, high beam quality, spectral purity, and linearly polarized nature of the output beam, the laser is readily frequency doubled to 532 nm. Average 532 nm powers up to 7 W and peak powers exceeding 40 kW have been demonstrated. Potential for scaling to higher peak and average powers in both the green and infrared (IR) will be discussed. This laser system has been field tested and demonstrated in numerous materials processing applications in both the IR and green, including scribing and marking. We discuss recent results that demonstrate success in processing a diverse array of representative industrial samples.
We have demonstrated a pulsed 1064 nm PM Yb:fiber laser system incorporating a seed source with a tunable pulse repetition rate and pulse duration and a multistage fiber amplifier, ending in a large core (>650 μm2 mode field area), tapered fiber amplifier. The amplifier chain is all-fiber, with the exception of the final amplifier’s pump combiner, allowing robust, compact packaging. The air-cooled laser system is rated for >60 W of average power and beam quality of M2 < 1.3 at repetition rates below 100 kHz to 10’s of MHz, with pulses discretely tunable over a range spanning 50 ps to greater than 1.5 ns. Maximum pulse energies, limited by the onset of self phase modulation and stimulated Raman scattering, are greater than 12.5 μJ at 50 ps and 375 μJ at 1.5 ns , corresponding to >250 kW peak power across the pulse tuning range. We present frequency conversion to 532 nm with efficiency greater than 70% and conversion to UV via frequency tripling, with initial feasibility experiments showing >30% UV conversion efficiency. Application results of the laser in scribing, thin film removal and micro-machining will be discussed.
We report on the performance of a 100 W, 105μm, 0.17 NA (filled) fiber-coupled module operating at 976 nm. Volume
holographic (Bragg) gratings are used to stabilize the emission spectrum to a 0.2 nm linewidth and wavelengthtemperature
coefficient below 0.01nm/°C with virtually no penalty to the operating power or efficiency of the device.
The typical fiber coupling efficiency for this design is >90%, enabling a rated operating efficiency of ~50%, the highest
reported for a 100W/105μm-class diode pump module (wavelength stabilized or otherwise).