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GSI drives UK diode laser project

20 Aug 2008

A £1.2 million research programme will give the UK a leading position in fibre-coupled sources for mainstream materials processing.

“This will place the UK at the forefront of fibre-delivered diode laser systems.”

The laser division of GSI Group has launched a £1.2 million ($2.2 million) UK R&D project in partnership with the LPA Group at Heriot-Watt University, PowerPhotonic and Cranfield University. HELPSYS, or High Efficiency Laser Processing Systems, aims to develop fibre-coupled diode laser sources with beam qualities good enough to suit a range of mainstream applications.

"We believe that this will place the UK at the forefront of fibre-delivered diode laser systems, and builds on the capabilities already in place within the project partners," Mark Greenwood, GSI technical director, told optics.org.

Until now, diode system beam quality has limited the accessible market to niches such as soldering, plastic welding, hardening and cladding. HELPSYS intends to broaden their application into markets dominated by technologies like high-power CO2 sources and lamp-pumped Nd:YAG lasers.

"By improving the beam quality of fibre-coupled diode lasers we will be able to apply the technology to a wider range of welding and cutting applications that currently use less efficient technologies," commented Greenwood. "We aim to at least double the brightness currently achievable with direct-diode technology at multi-kilowatt powers. This will enable diode laser technology to enter the mainstream in laser materials processing, where it has the potential to be more efficient than traditional welding."

The technology to be developed under HELPSYS includes the integration of new capabilities at the diode laser chip level, innovative mounting and cooling configurations including new multilayer planar ceramic technology, utilization of new beam correction techniques, and novel multibeam to optical fibre coupling methods.

HELPSYS is scheduled to run for three years from October 2008 and expects to deliver demonstrator high-power systems in 2010.

The project has received funding from the UK Technology Strategy Board, a body specifically tasked to stimulate technology able to be exploited within the UK. "We are confident that this project will directly benefit the laser and industrial processing industry, by developing new technologies for high-power diodes lasers and achieving our challenging goals for cost reduction in volume manufacturing processes," said Greenwood.

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