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Shimadzu develops GaN blue diode laser for machining

The gallium nitride based laser will enable deployment to microfabrication, where demand is increasing with the miniaturisation of smartphones and other electronic devices

Shimadzu has developed a blue direct GaN based diode laser, with high brightness levels.

The firm's 10W device will be exhibited at InterOpto 2013 taking place from October 16th to 18th at Pacifico Yokohama, Japan.

According to the "Fiber Laser Report 2011" by Optech Consulting, the world market for lasers in materials processing was worth $2.6 billion in 2010, but is expected to soar to $5.7 billion by 2020.

With machining lasers, in addition to conventional carbon dioxide lasers, diode-pumped solid-state lasers and fibre lasers are becoming increasingly commonplace.

These devicess utilise semiconductor lasers as their pumping sources, and now direct diode lasers (DDLs), which use such semiconductor lasers directly for laser machining, have become a focus of attention as the next generation of laser machining light sources. This is because they are compact, feature high-efficiency electro-optic conversion, and can be mass-produced at low costs.

In this context, development of higher output DDLs using near-infrared light is in progress. The realisation of high-output semiconductor lasers that work at short wavelengths in the visible region, where the rate of absorption by metals is high, and that provide high brightness levels from which high beam intensities can be obtained.

They also accommodate diversification of machining materials and enable deployment to microfabrication, where demand is increasing with the miniaturisation of smartphones and other electronic devices.

This implies the transition from carbon dioxide lasers and solid-state lasers to DDLs is expected to accelerate, with the commercial market expanding to the $0.5 billion scale by 2020 as predicted in  Optech Consulting's "Fiber Laser Report 2011".

Shimadzu says it has achieved a 16-fold increase in brightness over conventional levels for fibre-coupled blue semiconductor lasers, which feature high rates of absorption by metals.

This has been achieved by utilising new optical multiplexing and high-durability coating technology and techniques for precision assembly of optical equipment, based on GaN semiconductor lasers utilised in Blu-ray Discs and projectors.

As a result, Shimadzu says from an in-house inspection conducted in September 2013, it has developed the world's first blue direct diode laser, which features a microscopic spot size and can be applied to microfabrication.

The blue direct diode laser features a fibre coupling design that enables flexible laser beam delivering with high efficiency, even for kW-class output. Its power consumption is about one half that of solid-state green lasers, expanding the possibilities for laser machining instruments and processing instruments equipped with DDLs.

Shimadzu points out it has focused on establishing a light source industry for the next generation of advanced laser machining. In September of last year, the firm released the BEAM IMPACT series of external resonator-type short pulsed semiconductor lasers, a seed light source for fibre lasers.

What's more, in April this year, Shimadzu released a high-output laser mirror and laser window, and the firm is aiming to commercialise these products.

The company aims to release its 10W model around January 2014 and this will be followed by 50W and 100W versions.

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