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Technology Close-Up

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2001
Choosing the Right Galvanometer for the Job

Redmond P. Aylward

Galvanometer-based optical scanners are finding a place as positioning solutions for an increasingly broad range of laser applications. While a number of scanning approaches are available, galvanometer-based scanners -- commonly called "galvos" -- offer flexibility, speed and accuracy at an attractive cost. With continued advances in galvo technology, the devices today offer closed-loop bandwidths of hundreds of hertz even for larger beams, step-response times in the 100-µs range, single-microradian-level positioning resolution, lower costs per axis and flexible positioning control to describe a variety of motions across wide angles.

This has enabled new levels of performance in laser marking and other materials processing applications, via drilling, high-resolution print and imaging applications, DNA analysis and drug discovery systems, and low-cost biomedical systems that bring screening and detection capabilities from the research lab to the doctor's office. The design requirements of each application, however, place varying emphasis on speed, accuracy, size and cost…

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