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Benefits of TRUMPF fiber lasers

What are fiber lasers? What are they used for? What materials can be processed with fiber lasers? On this page, find out more about the different types of fiber lasers and the benefits they can bring to your manufacturing tasks.

Benefits and advantages of fiber lasers

Versatility across sectors

Fiber lasers are being used in almost every sector such as aerospace, automotive including e-mobility, dental, electronics, jewelry, medical, science, semiconductor, sensor systems, solar and others.

Compact due to small installation area

Fiber lasers are compact and space-saving They are therefore ideal for manufacturing where there is a shortage of space.

Material range

Fiber lasers have the ability to process many different materials. Metals (including mild steel, stainless steel, titanium and reflective materials such as aluminum or copper) make up the majority of laser processing applications worldwide, but plastics, ceramics, silicon, textiles are also being processed.

Cost efficiency

Fiber lasers are perfect for reducing overheads and operating costs. They are a cost-effective solution with a good price/performance ratio and have extremely low maintenance costs.

Simple integration

A diverse range of interfaces means that TRUMPF fiber lasers are quick and easy to integrate into your existing machines and systems. We support you as an OEM or as a complete solution provider (laser, optics, sensor systems and service).

Energy efficiency

Fiber lasers are highly efficient and consume less power than conventional manufacturing machines. This reduces your carbon footprint and lowers your operating costs.

How do fiber lasers work?

Lasers have three key elements: a beam source, a gain medium, and a resonator. The beam source uses an external power supply to place a gain medium in an excited state. This excited state of a laser active medium is characterized by "population inversion", which allows the medium to amplify light through a physical process. This is referred to as stimulated emission and was 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 a resonator. This captures optical energy for further amplification inside the resonator, while also allowing output coupling of some of the optical energy in one direction by means of a semi-transparent mirror. This output coupling of the optical energy is the laser beam, which can be used for various purposes.

TRUMPF has developed its own scheme for the input coupling of light from pump laser diodes into the laser active medium of the gain fiber. The scheme is referred to as "GT-Wave" (see graphic), in which the pump fiber is kept in contact with the gain fiber over its entire length of several meters. A portion of the pump light enters the gain fiber each time the internally reflected beams impinge on the interface. When these beams then pass through the rare earth (ytterbium) doped core, they are partially absorbed and excite the gain medium. The entire pump light is then absorbed evenly and continuously over the length of the gain fiber. One advantage of this scheme is its easy scalability to higher laser powers by adding additional pump modules. Another strength of the scheme is avoiding "hot spots" at the end surfaces of the gain fiber from the usual end pumping schemes, as well as a uniform gain profile due to the deposition of pump energy along the length of the gain fiber.

A fiber laser is therefore a type of laser that uses fibers doped with rare-earth elements (erbium, thulium, ytterbium), etc., as the active laser medium. This differentiates fiber lasers from other types of lasers on the market, where the active laser medium is a crystal (e.g. disk lasers) or gas (e.g. CO2 lasers).

Fiber lasers provide absolute efficiency and are able to precisely control speed and power by managing beam length, duration, intensity and heat output.

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Find out more about the full range of TRUMPF fiber lasers and transform the way you manufacture.

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Which materials can be processed with fiber lasers?

Fiber lasers are ideal for processing a wide range of materials and with years of industrial use have proven reliability. Fiber lasers are especially popular for processing metals. The type of metal involved is of secondary importance. Fiber lasers can process mild steel, stainless steel, titanium, iron and nickel as well as reflective metals such as aluminum, brass, copper and precious metals (silver and gold). They also work well with materials that have anodized and painted surfaces. Fiber lasers, and particularly pulsed nanosecond lasers, are also used in processing silicon, gemstones (including diamonds), plastics, polymers, ceramics, composites, thin layers, bricks, and concrete.

Which fiber laser to buy?

First, it is important to know the difference between the fiber laser types that TRUMPF provides. We offer pulsed fiber lasers, continuous wave (CW) fiber lasers, and ultrashort pulse lasers. Pulsed fiber lasers emit laser beams in pulses. The duration of individual pulses can be controlled in the nanosecond to microsecond range. CW lasers provide continuous laser beams, but can also modulate beam power up to the kHz frequency range. A continuous wave fiber laser is focused more on power and high output, so they are more likely to be found in industrial environments. A pulsed fiber laser is preferable to a continuous wave laser when high peak power needs to be achieved within a short pulse. Furthermore, microlasers have pulse durations below picosecond levels. They go down to 350 fs (femtoseconds).

Typical applications for fiber lasers

Fiber lasers are suited to many areas within the manufacturing world. For certain applications in heavy industry where efficiency and speed are particularly required, CW fiber lasers needing little to no maintenance or upkeep are the perfect solutions. CW lasers, for example, are ideal for laser drilling, laser cutting and laser welding. When highly specialized cuts in intricate shapes are needed, a pulsed fiber laser is the optimal tool.

Laser welding

Laser welding refers to the process of welding materials together, whether to join similar or dissimilar materials. Laser welding impresses on quality and cost. Accordingly, welding is feasible for many materials and a wide range of material thicknesses, for example, from thick steel plates, fuel cells and batteries through to delicate wiring used in the manufacture of medical devices.

Laser-cut tailgate
Laser cutting

Laser cutting is a process in which a material is cut with a laser beam. This might involve small and delicate materials or materials with much greater thicknesses (e.g. sheet metal). The process uses a focused laser beam (e.g. pulsed or continuous wave) to repeatedly cut into a wide range of materials with a high degree of precision.

Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is the process of building a 3D component by adding material layer by layer. It is commonly referred to as "3D printing". By combining 3D printing machines and computer software, complex shapes can be created. Additive manufacturing technology has been around for more than 30 years, but only in recent years has the technology been used on a larger industrial scale due to its versatility and excellent profitability. Fiber lasers often act as beam sources in 3D printing systems.

Paint removal with TruMicro Series 7000 lasers
Laser ablation

Laser ablation refers to the process of precision layer removal by laser. Lasers are able to remove a wide variety of materials (from solid metals to ceramics to industrial compounds) so the type of material to be removed is of secondary importance. Ablation is commonly used in the manufacturing of electronic products (e.g. semi-conductors and microprocessors). A major advantage of this process is that ablation is highly precise and accurate. Ablation is achieved in one step, this a significant advantage over conventional methods such as etching that generally require multiple steps. Laser ablation is usually the more cost-effective and environmentally friendly technology compared to conventional methods (e.g. dry ice blasting), as no solvents or chemicals are used.

Laser cleaning with the laser
Laser cleaning

Laser cleaning involves the removal of impurities, deposits or contaminants (e.g. metals, carbon, silicon and rubber) from material surfaces using a laser. There are two types of laser cleaning, one removing a single layer from the surface of a material, the other removing the entire top layer of a material.

Benefits of laser ablation include improved environmental friendliness (because no chemicals or solvents are used and minimal waste is generated), reduced substrate wear, and microcomponent cleaning (especially in electronics).

Laser drilling

Laser drilling is a non-contact method of making holes in a material, and is achieved by pulsing a laser beam on a particular area repeatedly. The material vaporizes and melts layer by layer until holes are formed. The process differs depending on the material thickness, the number of holes to be created and the size (width and depth) of these holes.

The benefits of fiber laser drilling include elimination of contact "wear" and contamination, high repeatability, ability to work with a wide range of materials, creation of precision holes in a variety of shapes and sizes, ease of integration into production processes, and fast set-up with reduced tool requirements.

Discoloration of plastic with the TruMark Series 5000
Laser marking

In laser marking, a mark is applied directly to the surface using an intense, pulsed laser beam. Interaction of the laser beam with the component surface leads to changes in the material, producing visible discoloration, structuring or marking. A wide variety of materials are also suitable to being laser marked. Accordingly, laser markings can be made on any metal as well as also on ceramics, plastics, LEDs, rubber, graphic composites, etc.

Laser engraving

Laser engraving is the removal of a portion of a material to leave a visible engraved mark. The engraving process is created by a laser beam removing material to create a mark, where the laser acts like a chisel and blasts away selected areas of the object material. The object is marked beneath the surface. The depth depends on the dwell time, the energy pulse and the number of passes as well as the material type.

Fiber lasers vs. CO2 lasers

The following section highlights the differences between fiber and CO2 lasers. Fiber lasers are a newer type of laser currently available on the world market. Fiber lasers have no moving parts or mirrors, have low maintenance costs, are electrically efficient, and work effectively with both very thin and thicker reflective metals. CO2 lasers are mainly being used today for processing non-metallic materials such as plastics, textiles, glass, acrylic and wood, and most notably stone. They are better for processing thicker materials (typically over 5 mm thick) and work faster in a straight line than fiber lasers.

Purchase a fiber laser - Discover our complete range of fiber lasers

Find out more about the full range of TRUMPF fiber lasers and transform the way you manufacture.

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