The evolution of direct diode lasers provides a new option for high-performance cutting
February 2017 - Al Bohlen (pictured), president of Mazak Optonics Corp., Elgin, Illinois, talks with Modern Metals about direct diode lasers (DDL) and their ability to deliver high performance and reliability. DDL have faster cutting speeds than fiber generators of like power and wall-plug efficiencies of 45 percent as compared to 35 percent for fiber.
MM: How has direct diode laser technology evolved so that it can be used in industrial applications?
Al Bohlen: Until recently, DDL have only been available in lower power levels (less than 2,000 watts), which limited their use within industrial applications. The platform has been developed and expanded to accommodate up to 8,000 watts of power and beyond. The higher wattage, combined with some very unique characteristics of DDL, have allowed DDL to be utilized in thicker material applications. More specifically, many laser users—who already embraced solid-state laser technology and benefit from higher cut speeds and lower cost of operation—can achieve a desired higher edge quality not yet possible in fiber or disk technology.
MM: Typically what kinds of materials are cut with DDL?
Bohlen: DDL have the ability to cut a wide range of material types and thicknesses, which certainly include a variety of carbon and stainless steel gauges and tensile strengths, aluminum, titanium, Hastelloy, Inconel and other exotic metals quite well.
MM: Do certain materials obtain a better cut quality when processed with direct diode lasers?
Bohlen: DDL have cut speed advantages for all material types and thicknesses. But the speed advantage is most notable in aluminum where we are seeing, in some cases, 30 percent faster cutting speeds over fiber or disk. However, DDL achieves superior cut quality in all materials well beyond the typical results seen in fiber or disk technology.
MM: Why would a company choose a direct diode laser instead of a fiber laser or a CO2 laser? What should they evaluate about their operations and cutting processes when making a decision?
Bohlen: Over the past several years, many CO2 laser users have purchased fiber lasers for their simplicity in design, lower cost of operation and processing speed advantage. However, the cut quality produced by CO2 has always been the benchmark. Although we have improved the cut quality of a solid-state (fiber/disk) laser, it is only now that DDL can provide both the highest edge quality along with all the other known advantages of solid-state lasers. There are additional advancements to come in beam control that are not possible in fiber or disk lasers. As we continue to educate the market on these technology breakthroughs, DDL will soon become the preferred laser source for many industrial cutting applications. MM
Al Bohlen is president of Mazak Optonics Corp.’s North American operations. Bohlen has extensive industry experience with major fabrication equipment manufacturers in a variety of technical and sales roles since 1986.