The optical quality of NCLR's 1 kW, 1 kHz XeCl excimer laser has been investigated. Nearly diffraction limited beams can be obtained in short burst mode up to 1 kHz. Long burst mode operation is currently limited by the quality of the optics. The beam pointing variation is reduced to half the divergence angle and is found to be independent of the repetition rate of the laser system.
For several years NCLR is working on a 1 kW, 1 kHz XeCl laser. Improvement of the beam quality at high power levels enabled us to do large-scale application experiments and industrial applications become feasible. The base for the good beam quality is a homogeneous discharge. It starts with a smooth gas flow from a classical flow loop. The combination of X-ray pre-ionization and the sophisticated spiker-sustainer circuit guarantees a stable discharge with a long optical pulse (250 ns). Due to the gentle discharge only weak shock waves are formed that are damped within 800 microseconds. An unstable resonator gives a nearly diffraction limited beam. We are now finding a market for this laser. Hole drilling is one of the most promising applications. We can drill holes of 10 to 100 micrometer diameter at a very fast production rate of up to 1000 holes per second. The holes can be drilled in many different materials: metals like aluminum, titanium, steel and nickel alloys, but also plastics, ceramics, glass and composites. The good results encouraged us to design a commercial version of the laser.