The advantages of TRUMPF fiber lasers

What are fiber lasers? Which applications are they used for? And what kind of materials can be processed through fiber lasers? Learn more about the different types of fiber lasers and their benefits for your manufacturing jobs in this guide.

Benefits and advantages of using fiber lasers

Versatility across industries

Fiber lasers are used in virtually all industries auch as aerospace, automotive including e-mobility, dental, electronics, jewelry, medical, scientific, semi-conductors, sensors, solar and others too.

Compact with small footprint

Fiber lasers are compact and economical on space. This is ideal in many settings, where manufacturing space is at a premium.

Material diversity

Fiber lasers have the ability to work with many different materials. Metals (including mild steel, stainless steel, titanium and reflective ones such as aluminum or copper) form the majority of global laser processing, but plastics, ceramics, silicon, textiles are also processed.

Cost effectiveness

Fiber lasers are ideal for reducing costs overheads and operating costs. They are a cost-effective solution returning their value in output terms and have extremely low maintenance costs too.

Easy integration

TRUMPF can supply a fiber laser as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), providing all necessary interfaces, which allows other companies to easily integrate the laser equipment into their own machines and systems. On the other hand, TRUMPF offers full package solutions with matching optic, sensor systems and services.

Energy efficiency

Highly efficient, fiber lasers consume less power than traditional manufacturing machinery. This helps to deliver a small environmental footprint and reduced operating costs.

How a fiber laser works

Functional sketch fiber laser

All lasers have three key elements in common: An excitation source, a gain medium, and a resonator. The excitation source uses externally supplied power to put a gain medium into an excited state. This excited state of a laser medium is characterized by a so-called population inversion, which enables the medium to amplify light due to a physical process called stimulated emission, first described by Albert Einstein (LASER = “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Fiber bragg gratings inside the fiber act as mirrors around the gain medium to form an optical resonator, which on the one hand traps optical energy inside the resonator for further amplification, but also enables the out-coupling of a certain part of the optical energy in one direction by means of a partially transparent mirror. This out-coupled part of the optical energy is the laser beam that can be used for various purposes. 

TRUMPF has developed in-house a proprietary scheme for coupling the light from the pump laser diodes into the active medium of the gain fiber. The scheme, known as ‘GT-Wave’ (see diagram) has the pump fiber held in contact with the gain fiber over its whole length, of many meters. Some of the pump light enters the gain fiber each time the internally reflected rays impinge on the interface. As these rays then cross the rare earth (Ytterbium) doped core, they are partially absorbed and excite the gain medium. Thus over the length of the gain fiber, all the pump light is smoothly and continuously absorbed. This scheme offers advantages of ease of scaling to higher laser powers with addition of extra pump modules, the avoidance of ‘hot-spots’ on the end faces of the gain fiber from usual end pumping schemes and a uniform gain profile from the deposition of the pump energy along the length of the gain fiber.

So a fiber laser is a type of laser which uses fiber doped with rare-earth elements (erbium, thulium, ytterbium) etc. as active laser medium. This differentiates the fiber laser to other types of laser available on the market, where the active laser medium is a crystal (e.g. disk laser) or gas (e.g. CO2 laser).

Fiber lasers provide absolute efficiency, precisely control speed and power through accurate management of the beam length, duration, intensity, and heat output.

Which materials can be processed through fiber lasers?

Fiber lasers are great at working with a huge variety of materials, providing reliability and experience. In particular fiber lasers work with a wide range of metals including mild steel, stainless steel, titanium, iron, and nickel as well as working with reflective metals such as aluminum, brass, copper, and even precious metals such as silver and even gold. In addition, they work well with materials, which have anodized and painted surfaces. Fiber lasers, particularly nanosecond pulsed lasers, are also used in the processing of silicon, gemstones (including diamonds), plastics, polymers, ceramics, composites, thin films, brick, and concrete too.

Which fiber laser to buy?

Firstly, it’s important to note the difference between the types of fiber lasers that TRUMPF offers. We have pulsed fiber lasers, continuous wave (CW) fiber lasers as well as ultrashort pulse laser. Pulsed fiber lasers deliver the laser beam in pulses, and you can control the duration of each pulse in the nanosecond to microsecond range. CW lasers deliver a continuous laser beam, but still has the capability for the beam power to be modulated up to the kHz frequency range. A continuous wave fiber laser is focused more around power and high output, so you’ll most commonly see CW lasers being used in industrial settings. A pulsed fiber laser is often chosen for several processes over a continuous wave beam as it is capable of higher peak power within a short pulse. Next to that micro lasers have pulse durations even shorter than picoseconds, down to 350 fs (femtoseconds).

Typical applications for fiber lasers

Fiber lasers are useful for many sectors around the world. For some heavy industrial applications, where efficiency and speed are paramount, a CW fiber laser that requires little to no maintenance or upkeep is the perfect solution. That's way CW lasers are most adept at performing laser drilling, laser cutting and laser welding. If you are working with very finite materials and need very specific incisions made in complicated shapes, then a pulsed fiber laser is best suited.

CO2 vs. fiber lasers

The following section is highlighting the comparison of fiber lasers and CO2 lasers. Fiber lasers are the newer type of laser available on the world market. Fiber lasers have no moving parts or mirrors, operate at low maintenance costs, are electrically efficient, are good at working with very thin and thicker materials and work well with reflective metals. CO2 lasers are now only really used in any volumes for the processing of a wide range of non-metallic materials including plastics, textiles, glass, acrylic, wood and even stone. They have the edge and should be definitely selected for working with thicker materials (typically above 5mm in thickness). They are also faster in a straight line than fiber lasers.

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