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  • MIT Spinoff Produces Diode Laser for Cutting, Welding

Photonics.com
Jul 2014
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 25, 2014 — Bright and strong enough to cut and weld metal with greater efficiency than conventional lasers, a new diode laser will soon hit the market.

MIT Lincoln Lab spinoff TeraDiode Inc. is working with the school to commercialize the multikilowatt diode laser system, called the TeraBlade.

The new system uses a power scaling technique that manipulates individual diode laser beams into a single output ray. According to the scientists, this boosts power of the diode lasers while also preserving a very focused beam. With conventional laser systems, boosting power typically decreases the beam quality.


The TeraBlade laser cuts through 116-in.-thick stainless steel. Courtesy of TeraDiode Inc.


Each TeraBlade module has an output of about 1,000 W and can be scaled to increase power, enough to cut through and weld even a half-inch of steel.

“[The TeraBlade] has comparable beam quality as compared with traditional manufacturing lasers, such as carbon dioxide, disc and fiber,” said TeraDiode co-founder and Vice President Robin Huang.

TeraBlade also relies on wavelength beam combining, or incoherent beam combining. This laser module contains diode laser bars, which are long arrays of diode lasers, as well as a transform lens, a diffraction grating and an output lens.

Specifically, Huang said, the light from the diode lasers passes through the transform lens and onto a carefully positioned diffraction grating. However, instead of dispersing light at different angles, the grating forces the beams into the same direction, superimposing them on one another.

“Because the TeraBlade is a direct diode laser, it has the highest efficiency and lowest cost of ownership as compared with these other lasers,” Huang said.

He said TeraBlade, a third-generation industrial laser, uses light directly from the diodes. This allows it to skip the diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) laser conversion step required with conventional lasers; this also saves energy.

The new diode laser operates with the same amount of power and brightness as other industrial lasers, Huang said, but at roughly 40 percent efficiency. Other industrial lasers, such as CO2 and DPSS, operate at about 20 percent and 30 percent efficiency, respectively.

The scientists said the new laser system could also have applications in defense, specifically in deterring heat-seeking missiles.

For more information, visit www.teradiode.com.


GLOSSARY
diffraction
As a wavefront of light passes by an opaque edge or through an opening, secondary weaker wavefronts are generated, apparently originating at that edge. These secondary wavefronts will interfere with the primary wavefront as well as with each other to form various diffraction patterns.  
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