Laser ablation, like laser-beam welding, is one of the longest-established and most successful processes in the field of laser manufacturing technology. Among ablation processes, laser ablating, laser cutting and laser drilling processes need to be differentiated in principle since they differ in their machine technology, on the one hand, and in their laser technology and process technology, on the other.
The institutes of the group, especially the Fraunhofer ILT, the Fraunhofer IWS and the Fraunhofer IOF, develop processes, technology and system technology for laser ablation. Apart from using a wide variety of materials, such as metals, ceramics, plastics and glasses, they also address different processes versions. In classical surface ablation, precise structures are generated by layer-by-layer evaporation to produce, for example, injection molds. Above all, since high-power ultra-short pulse lasers in the picosecond and femtosecond range are now available, laser ablation technology has become a powerful process in production technology – a logical addition and extension to conventional methods such as milling and EDM.
In addition to the process development for different materials, the institutes of the group develop sophisticated solutions for technically and economically optimized laser ablation processes and system components. Furthermore, they accompany plant builders and end users from the first feasibility study to industrial implementation. Above all, in the field of ablation technology, the group’s institutes develop innovative approaches to multi-beam processing and processing with polygon scanners at speeds above 1000 m/s. Particularly in the cooperation with optical system technology institutes, they develop specific system components and implement them with solutions tailored to a customer’s needs. Together with machine operators and plant suppliers, the group institutes implement complete production solutions for precision machining. Customers are accompanied from basic parameter development to industrial system integration.
The group institutes develop sophisticated solutions for technically and economically optimized laser cutting processes and system components, and accompany plant engineers and end users from the first feasibility study to industrial implementation. With proprietary simulation software and patented optics and nozzle design, the Fraunhofer ILT experts provide their customers with international technology leadership in the fields of high-speed cutting, heavy section cutting and cutting of composite materials all the way to flexible process chains with integrated separation and joining processes. Thanks to digital control, monitoring and control methods, the institute has been able to continuously increase the degree of automation of laser cutting machines.
In the field of laser-beam cutting, the Fraunhofer IWS focuses their research activities mainly on process developments in laser fusion cutting, in addition to fundamental investigations on understanding the cutting process itself. For example, the institutes are looking at how to improve the cutting quality when separating with solid-state lasers or to optimize the laser cutting of electric plates while retaining their magnetic properties.
Moreover, the institutes also concentrate on qualifying novel cutting processes, such as remote laser cutting for manufacturing integration. At Fraunhofer ILT and Fraunhofer IWS, all common lasers of different wavelengths, power and beam quality are available in combination with highly dynamic 2D and 3D cutting machines.
In addition to commercial processing optics, the institute also uses special solutions and proprietary developments, such as scanning systems for remote processing, for beam focusing and shaping. Furthermore, it is able to characterize the processing results, ranging from roughness measurements at the cutting edge to the detection of functional properties, such as the loss of magnetization in laser-cut electrical plates.
In the field of laser drilling, various drilling strategies such as single-hole drilling, percussion drilling or helical drilling are available, which are selected based on their productivity and quality. Helical drilling offers first-class hole qualities with almost any geometry and high aspect ratios. In the case of suitable process control, helical drilling can be used as laser cutting with pulsed laser radiation, which is characterized by extreme flexibility with extreme accuracies in the sub-μm range.
With ultra-short pulse laser drilling, holes can be made practically without mechanical or thermal damage to the workpiece. This process produces the smallest structures (sub-μm to 100 μm), which are defined only by the optical properties of the laser beam. Applications can be found, for example, in processing thin-film systems, photovoltaics, as well as in nozzle and filter technology.
With proprietary simulation software and patented optics and nozzle design, the Fraunhofer ILT experts provide their customers with international technology leadership in the areas of high-speed cutting, thick-sheet cutting and cutting of composite materials, as well as flexible process chains with integrated separation and joining processes. By using digital control, monitoring and control methods, the institute has been able to continuously increase the degree to which the laser cutting machines can be automated.