Revolutionary laser opens new doors for industry

Wednesday September 7, 2016 12:23

ECN has produced a new revolutionary laser set-up that makes industrial applications and machining possible that up to now could only be dreamed of. The unique device can process ceramics and create razor-sharp machining in metals.

Applications include machining difficult-to-cut materials such as ceramics, producing solar panels with a higher yield and making medical equipment water-repellent so that it stays sterile for longer. ECN invites manufacturers to make use of this new laser set-up for their processing needs.

The pulse length of the lasers ranges from a millisecond to a nanosecond, and even a picosecond. The wavelengths range from 10 micrometres to 343 nanometres. Each combination produces a different laser, making it suitable for multiple applications. “It enables us to remove ultra-thin layers just 80 nanometres thick; that's a thousand times smaller than a human hair. We can make holes in a hair or the head of a matchstick without it catching fire. It happens so quickly that the material doesn't even know it's being processed, as it were,” says Martijn de Keijzer, laser applications expert at ECN.

The laser can be used to remove thin layers on thin-film solar cells, so that they produce a higher yield. Watch manufacturers are very interested in the potential for scribing ceramic watch cases. The laser can be used to make inscriptions or engraved decorations which would normally be impossible to achieve without the material breaking. Surfaces of medical equipment can be roughened to create a functional hydrophobic surface which is self cleaning and less sensitive to dirt. An example of the accuracy with which this laser can machine metals is that it can drill holes in 50-micrometre molybdenum foil with a diameter only slightly larger than a human hair. And the surrounding material is super-smooth and burr-free. In the paper and cardboard industry, the laser can be used on site to create forms in the mill roller so that fewer roller changes are needed, reducing assembly line costs. According to Martijn de Keijzer, this new laser can easily compete with other industrial processes such as etching or chemical treatments: “Laser processing offers more flexibility at lower costs.” 

More information & contact
Companies can commission ECN for orders, collaborate with ECN experts, or hire and use the laser themselves. You can find more information about ECN's laser facilities on the expertise page. You are also welcome to contact us.

Category: Corporate, Engineering & materials