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Fraunhofer ILT develops compact laser scanner for industrial applications

25 May 2023

Reducing platform's dimensions should allow new end uses and enhance productivity.

A compact galvanometer laser scanner developed by Fraunhofer ILT has been designed to suit new applications in 3D printing, micromachining or medical technology.

The scanner occupies only 50 cubic centimeters, according to the designers, and features an architecture which combines the scanner drive and mirror substrate to save up to 90 percent of the normal installation space.

"Commercially available galvanometer scanners with an aperture of 10 millimeters require 10 to 50 times the installation space of the planar galvanometer scanner," commented Fraunhofer ILT.

"As this space is reduced, so is the weight of the scanner unit, an advantage that opens up a host of new applications and opportunities to increase productivity."

In particular, reductions in weight and volume could help the new scanner to be integrated into applicators for hand-guided laser processes in medical technology and laser drilling processes, without sacrificing precision or dynamics. The device is also suitable for all hand-held laser marking and engraving systems.

The new Fraunhofer ILT design builds on the research center's work on galvanometric scanners, where the laser scanning operation is carried out through rotation and orientation of a planar reflecting surface, as complementary devices to polygon scanners in which a polygonal mirror is employed instead.

A galvanometer approach can guide the laser beam focus dynamically along a component surface and close to its contour, according to the designers, with special components and controls now developed by Fraunhofer ILT specifically for these systems to allow short cycle times.

On show at LASER World of Photonics

The compact design also enables multiple scanners to be integrated into a single processing head, and for this purpose the Fraunhofer researchers have built and characterized a demonstrator with four 2D deflection units. This scanner array has an overall construction volume of 140 by 140 by 90 millimeters.

In trials, Fraunhofer ILT has used the system with laser powers of up to 150 watts per scan head for laser marking and engraving applications, in which it delivered comparable accuracy and dynamics to conventional galvanometer scanners. Other tests included 3D printing, micromachining, paint stripping and decoating, where the presence of four or more scanners allows processing tasks to be parallelized, leading to improved productivity.

The mini scanner uses commercially available model-based control electronics, for ease of integration into existing production lines using standardized communication protocols. Fraunhofer ILT believes that the closed-loop control available for the new scanner is more robust, precise and faster than conventional controllers, and bespoke systems tailored to customers' specific needs can be supplied.

A prototype of the mini scanner will be on display at the Fraunhofer booth at LASER World of Photonics in Munich from June 27 to 30th.

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