What You Need to Know About an AM Laser’s Personality: Power Is Not the Complete Story

Oct 22, 2019
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Presented by
MKS Ophir, Light & Measurement
About This Webinar
Most of us are familiar with the many benefits that laser-based additive manufacturing brings to manufacturing, including reduced tooling costs, easier testing of complex geometries, and faster time to market. With these benefits come the challenges of keeping the machines operating and in spec. But the performance of your laser will change over time. A power check will not give you the complete story. To keep the process running efficiently and product quality high, you need a more complete understanding of your laser’s personality before and after each build.

In this webinar, Ophir’s Dick Rieley will discuss why laser system performance changes and why it is important to understand — as well as when, how, and how often to measure and analyze the laser’s performance so as not to affect the efficiency and quality of the products being produced.

About the presenter:
Dick Rieley, Sr. Field Sales Engineer, Mid-Atlantic Region, Ophir.Dick Rieley is senior field sales engineer, Mid-Atlantic Region, for Ophir (U.S.), part of MKS Instruments’ Light & Motion Division. He joined the company in 1998. Prior to that, he served as sales manager for Vanzetti Systems, a manufacturer of PCB laser inspection systems for the military, and as marketing manager for Belden Corp., manufacturer of electronic wire and cable. Rieley is the author of dozens of articles on laser measurement and applications. He holds a B.A. in industrial business marketing from Miami University. When not knee-deep in lasers, he enjoys blue-water sailing and racing along the New Hampshire coast.

Who should attend:
Engineers, technicians, scientists, consultants, managers, and others who use, design, build, or integrate laser systems. Anyone involved in laser applications who needs clarity on how to correctly and accurately measure laser system performance. 

About Ophir:
Ophir is a brand within the MKS Instruments Light & Motion Division. The Ophir product portfolio consists of laser and LED measurement products, including laser power and energy meters, laser beam profilers measuring femtowatt to hundred-kilowatt lasers, high-performance IR and visible optical elements, IR thermal imaging lenses and zoom lenses for defense and commercial applications, OEM and replacement high-quality optics, and subassemblies for CO2 and high-power fiber laser material processing applications. Ophir products enhance its customers’ capabilities and productivity in the semiconductor, industrial technologies, life and health sciences, research, and defense markets.

Q&A with the presenter:
Just to confirm: if my laser power is consistent and uniform from build to build, is there any reason my beam shape and size is not stable as well?
There’s no relationship between your laser beam power and the shape of the beam. They are two totally different measurements — either one can change, independent of the other.

If I only take power measurements on my AM laser, what is my risk?
The risk is significant. You’re assuming the beam is of the right size, shape, and intensity. If the beam shape changes (e.g. becomes more oval), how will you know that? So if your builds are time-consuming, expensive, or complex, taking both measurements will help you avoid the likelihood of producing a defective product build.

We use burn paper, otherwise called Zappit Paper, to take the beam diameter measurement. How accurate is this method?
It’s a relative measurement at best. Keep in mind that when the laser burns a spot on the paper, it’s only visible by allowing the paper to burn in all directions — so the image is, by its very nature, larger than the actual size of the beam. Zappit Paper is best for alignment and targeting purposes.

Most AM facilities are in environments where temperature and humidity are controlled. Do either of these factors impact the measurement of power or spatial characteristics of the AM laser?
No. I suppose in some extreme cases it’s possible, but otherwise, it will not.

Once I have an AM under control and I am getting repeatable power and spatial measurements, how frequently do I need to continue this process?
This is a continuous process. The frequency is only driven by the stability of the laser. If measurements display stable and repeatable values, then extending the duration between measurements becomes a consideration. A better answer to this question is, however, if the build is expensive, critical, and time-consuming to build, then frequent measurements represent good judgment.

There are power measurement devices available today that can measure the high power of a laser within seconds. How accurate is this approach?
I prefer not to comment on competitive measurement methods, but what I will say is that using a power sensor that allows the AM laser to perform as if it were in production is a good choice and a reliable choice for accuracy. An AM laser does not operate in 1-5 second durations, it operates in a continuous mode. For that reason, AM lasers should be measured in a continuous mode.
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