Lasers are a concentrated form of light produced through a process of optical amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Ordinary light, such as sunlight or the kind emitted by a light bulb, is made up of different colors or wavelengths of light, whose waves scatter in all direction. When you put all the different wavelengths of this kind of light, the product is white light.
Lasers typically have only one wavelength of light whose waves are “in phase” and travel in the same direction. This makes lasers monochromatic and collimated, meaning it has just one color of wavelength, and it spreads only minimally as it propagates, allowing it to be focused on a small point.
Many successful scientific and technological innovations make use of laser technologies in order to work. These include media devices like CD and DVD players, barcode readers, various types of medical equipment, measuring devices used by the military and other uniformed services, and technologies employed by the telecommunication industry to transmit data over great distances.
Lasers’ ability to concentrate intense energy onto small points also make them very valuable in the manufacturing industry. With the help of laser-based technologies, companies are able to carry out processes like machining, construction, material production, product quality control, logistics, and many others.
The nature of the manufacturing processes that lasers accomplish is related to the characteristics of the laser being used. These include the laser’s intensity, wavelength, and output (i.e. whether it is the continuous wave or pulsed beam variant).
These manufacturing processes are typically accomplished with the help of linear stages and other automated positioning solutions, which are precision-engineered for specific applications.
The most common applications are as follows:
Laser marking is the process of creating text or graphics on workpieces by altering the surface of the actual material or of a thin coating of paint or stain applied on this material. The marks can be used for a variety of purposes, be it producing barcodes for logistics and supply chain management or creating machine vision markings for automatic industrial inspection and robot guidance.
Laser marking can be achieved through different methods as well. For instance, laser can be used to produce heat strong enough to engrave or etch materials like hard plastic or silicone.
It can also be used to create chemical reactions on the surface of the material, which will then produce superficial markings. For instance, laser annealing or sintering oxidizes the surface of metals to produce the markings, whereas laser coloring and foaming are done to stain the surfaces of light-colored and dark-colored plastics, respectively.
Finally, laser can also be used to burn away paint, foil, film, or laminate that was previously applied on the material specifically for the purpose of being scorched away to produce the markings.
Laser machining or cutting
Aside from creating markings on workpieces, laser can also be used for laser machining or laser cutting. This procedure involves the removal of significant portions of the materials being processed. It can involve the processing of very large industrial pieces like metal parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as very small items such as microelectronic chips.
In laser cutting, lasers of very high intensity are used. The laser energy has to be accurately focused on the spot where it needs to be so that the beam can make precise cuts. This level of precision requires optimum positioning accuracy, thus necessitating the use of motion systems of superior engineering.
To summarize, laser processing is a very useful application of laser technology that can have significant implications not only in the industrial sector but also in the realm of small businesses, education, and domestic applications. It requires some amount of financial investment, but the advantages—from manufacturing efficiency and precision to the prevention of workpiece contamination—will definitely be worth the cost.