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Smallest CO2 laser targets marking

27 Jul 2005

US firm Nutfield Technology says it has developed the smallest 10W CO2 laser on the market.

Nutfield Technology of the US has unveiled what it claims is the smallest 10W CO2 laser on the market. Measuring just 8.8 x 10.3 x 37.5 cm, the Cipher-V10 uses a V-folded cavity and can write up to 700 characters per second on a wide range of substrates.

"The Cipher-V10 uses an XY scan head and optics module including laser cooling, beam expander, shutter, diode pointer, beam combiner and scan lens," Nutfield's president Rolland Zeleny told Optics.org. "The laser, optics and scan head also share the same support structure, which reduces the module's size."

As well as its small size, Zeleny adds that the laser tube is made of a fully-oxidised ceramic which means there is no oxygen available to contaminate the gas mixture.

"The electrodes and matching circuit coils are external, further reducing contamination inside the laser tube," said Zeleny. "The Cipher-V10 does not rely on O-rings to seal the output coupler and mirrors. O-rings have been known to let water and gases into the laser tube over time, which also contaminates the gas mixture."

Thanks to a removable objective scan lens, the laser is available with several spot sizes and works over a range of marking fields. "The practical [marking] working fields for a 10W CO2 laser with a 10 mm aperture scan head are from 125x125 mm down to 35x35 mm," said Zeleny. "Character size depends on the choice of objective scan lens but typically the module can mark characters 0.5 mm in size up to the full working field size."

As for the speed at which these characters can be written, the New Hampshire-based firm states the Cipher-V10 writes 1 mm single-stroke characters at greater than 700 characters per second using 10 mm aperture mirrors over a 70x70 mm marking field.

The laser can mark substrates including anodized aluminium, wood, glass, polycarbonate and nylon and is initially being targeted at the product identification market.

"Applications include identification of food, beverage, pharmaceutical and electronic components," said Zeleny. "Recent breakthroughs include the direct marking of fruit and vegetables. Reactive color-change coatings are also being applied to thin-film plastics, aluminium containers and pills and this opens up products once off-limit to CO2 lasers."

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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