New Laser Applications Using Beam Shaping Technologies
In addition to the typical laser processes like cutting and welding, the constructive use of photons for refinement of materials and generation of new material properties is a new field of applications for laser sources. The defined combination of wavelength, optical power and the right beam shape can be used to address material phase transitions, crystallization and annealing processes with unique performance and functionality of coatings and surfaces in all industries.
Today, the use of laser photons for materials processing is a key technology in nearly all industries. Most of the applications use the typical circular beam shapes with Gaussian intensity distribution that is given by the resonator of the laser or given by the power delivery via optical fibers. These beam shapes can be typically used for material removal with cutting or drilling and for selective removal of material layers with ablation processes. In addition to the removal of materials, it is possible to modify and improve the material properties in case the dose of laser photons and the resulting light-material interaction addresses a defined window of energy and dwell time. These process windows have typically dwell times between micro-seconds and seconds because of low speed sintering, melting, thermal diffusion or photon induced chemical and physical reaction mechanisms. Using state-of-the-art beam shaping technologies the laser beam profiles can be adapted to the required material properties, time-temperature and the space-temperature envelopes that can be used to modify the material structure or composition and to enable selective annealing or crystallization of layers or surfaces. Especially the control of the process energy inside the beam cross-section opens a large area of laser applications that can be addressed only with an optimized spatial and angular beam profile with down to sub-percent intensity variation. E.g. immersion lithography tools with ArF laser sources use these special beam shaping profiles since more than a decade to achieve today 10nm resolution with optical lithography, a result that was evaluated as impossible a few years earlier.
LIMO recently published an article in the renowned trade magazine “Industrial Laser Solutions” that focusses on constructive behavior of materials during interacting with photons. Processes using phase transition, defect annealing, crystallization, de-wetting, separation or decomposition are some examples how laser photons can interact with materials without destroying or removal of material. LIMO presents examples for new beam shapes and related material refinement processes that can be scaled up to a productivity of 1m²/s and gives an overview about new mechanisms in laser material processing that can open a new dimension of material processing for the current and coming challenges in science, industry and our daily life.
Read how this technology provides the missing link between technical challenges and innovations!