Lasertec was able to move to a DPSS source with limited engineering costs because of a new DPSS manufacturing model. As the example shows, laser micromachining source optimization requires an application-specific set of laser operating characteristics defined by parameters such as power, wavelength, pulse duration, and repetition rate. These parameters are relative to the material type and micromachining process. A DPSS laser’s overall power, pulse width, and repetition rate are interdependent parameters, determined by the laser resonator configuration. So, for a given cavity length and pump-power level, pushing one of these parameters results in trade-offs with the other parameters. It is therefore critical that the cavity design and pumping configuration are correctly chosen in advance to deliver the performance levels required. This can lead to high engineering costs to optimize the laser system. To avoid these additional engineering costs, laser manufacturers are leveraging automated manufacturing and modular DPSS designs that can meet the ‘custom’ needs of precision micromachining laser sources.
Many vendors supply standard laser systems that work well for high-volume applications whose optimum requirements are already well-understood, but these laser systems may not be ideal for emerging applications that have not been fully investigated, or for niche/specialty applications that may never be large enough to justify a custom-optimized, mass-produced laser. Vendors including Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) support these applications through a modular design concept. For example, Coherent builds laser resonators by installing pre-mounted optics on a baseplate that is pre-drilled with numerous mounting holes. Using this common baseplate design and a limited set of optical components, the laser can be built with various cavity lengths and configurations. This type of laser system manufacturing approach results in fully customized performance, without having to resort to the NRE (non-recurring engineering) costs associated with a mass-produced, custom-designed laser.
Both high- and low-volume laser micromachining applications require optimized laser performance in order to achieve desired results and meet cost targets; however, the definition of optimum performance is highly application specific. By employing a modular construction approach, low-volume applications can be serviced in a cost-effective manner. For high-volume applications, a simplified design manufacturing process that leverages automation delivers economy without sacrificing performance and reliability.