TRUMPF pulse lasersClick image to enlarge

TRUMPF, Bosch and the University of Jena have won the German Future Prize for their work on ultra-short pulse lasers for industrial production.

Researchers from the three organizations have established ultra-short pulse lasers as a new tool for industrial production. The ultrashort pulse laser, which emits up to 24,000 pulses of incredibly high energy in a fraction of a second, processes almost any material gently, precisely and with high productivity. It drills ultrafine holes in metal, cuts medical stents from tiny polymer tubes, shatterproof touch screens for Smartphone displays, structures the surfaces of thin-film solar cells, and can also cut through ultrathin plastic foil, brittle ceramic components and diamonds.

(From left) Dr. Jens König, Prof. Stefan Nolte and Dr. Dirk Sutter have developed ultrashort laser pulses from basic research into a new tool for industrial mass production.  Click image to enlarge

"With the ultra-short pulse laser we've opened a door into a new realm – and we won't know its precise size or full details about it for a very long time," says Dr. Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG and president of the Laser Technology and Electronics Division. "That is why micro-processing using lasers like these is a production technology of the future – and German companies are the world leaders here. We regard the award of the German Future Prize as reflecting the industrial and political relevance of our joint innovations, which is why we're very proud to receive it," he adds.

The German President gave the ultrashort pulse laser its award in a decisive phase. The technology has long proven its industrial suitability in three-shift operations across wide variety applications with constant quality and precision. At this point, the technology is entering new sectors of mass production and replacing conventional methods such as mechanical drilling, eroding or chemical etching. Entirely new products that were impossible to make previously can now be manufactured using the ultrashort pulse laser.

"It is expected that the production figures will continue to rise steeply in the future, since the technology offers great advantages for numerous fields of application," says prize winner Dr. Dirk Sutter, responsible for ultra-short pulse laser research and development at TRUMPF Laser GmbH + Co. KG in Schramberg, Germany. The process is unique in that that there is no heat transferred to the material and no residue after processing. This is because the ultrashort pulse only heats the material locally, and so intensely that it is ejected and vaporized before the heat can be transferred. This enables areas just a few micrometers in diameter to be ablated–with no melt residue, no heat-affected zone and, consequently, no need for refinishing.

The next generation of ultra-short pulse lasers is already being produced at TRUMPF.

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