Science

The world’s first direct-diode laser is strong enough to cut & weld metal

laser beam
Image Credit: http://www.engadget.com/2013/05/08/lockheed-martin-adam-laser/

Whether you realize it or not, diode lasers are a part of your everyday life. From laser pointers to DVD players and barcode scanners, diode lasers are efficient, low cost, and compact. In the last presentation you gave to a group of colleagues, it’s possible you were using one of these lasers, without realizing it.

Direct-diode lasers are going beyond everyday use and can now cut and weld metal. Creating a laser strong enough to cut metal has been attempted in the past, but until now, all attempts have been unsuccessful.

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory spinout TeraDiode created a commercial multi-kilowatt diode laser that’s bright enough to cut and weld metal at a greater efficiency than any other industrial laser on the market. The TeraBlade can cut through a half-inch of steel using light directly from the diodes.

The TeraBlade works by employing a power-scaling technique called wavelength beam combining (WBC). This unique technique was developed by Robin Huang, a former Lincoln Laboratory researcher, and Bien Chann, TeraDiobe’s co-founder. The diode lasers in the TeraBlade are tiny semiconductor devices that turn electrons into photons that create a ray of laser light.

When overlapping beams at different wavelengths focus on a small spot, the laser becomes very intense.

The TeraBlade, based on WBC technology, is a laser module that holds diode laser bars, a diffraction grating, output lens, and a transform lens. Light from the lasers passes through the transform lens onto the diffraction grating, and forces beams into the same direction, superimposing the beams on one another. This is the force that allows the TeraBlade to have the power to cut and weld metal.

The beam from a TeraBlade is 100 times brighter than other direct-diode lasers.

The company has developed the commercial quality TeraBlade for top global industrial laser-based machine and system integrators. Panasonic Welding Systems in Europe and Japan is one of the top customers. Because the TeraBlade is a direct-diode laser, it operates efficiently, but has a lower cost of ownership.

In the future, the company hopes to change the laser industry by introducing more powerful direct-diode lasers that can be used across the globe.