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New kid on the block

By Lauren Duensing

Higher power direct diode lasers show off their ability to efficiently and reliably cut materials

FFJ 1017 face leadAl Bohlen, president of Mazak Optonics Corp., Elgin, Illinois, talks with FFJournal about the technology behind direct diode lasers (DDL) and why they are gaining traction among fabricators. Until recently, DDL have only been available in power levels less than 2,000 watts, which has limited their use. Today’s DDL have been developed to accommodate 8,000-plus watts of power, which gives them the ability to cut thicker materials.

Q: What is direct diode laser technology?

Al Bohlen: Direct diode lasers (DDL) provide a beam source from a process that is not a conventional excitation method. Conventional lasers, such as CO2, fiber or disk, are using a gain medium or “fuel” to produce the laser beam. DDL takes diode light through a diffraction grating method and delivers it directly to the cutting surface.

Q: How do DDL compare to CO2 and fiber lasers?

Bohlen: DDL operate at an even shorter wavelength than fiber, disk or CO2, resulting in greater power absorption into the material being processed. This increased power absorption results in faster cutting speeds in a wide range of material types and thicknesses, with the bonus of an improved edge quality. Additionally, DDL are a much more efficient “engine,” which translates to even lower operating costs than those associated with fiber, CO2 or disk technologies.

Q: Are there any specific challenging materials or types of cuts that DDL technology is particularly suited for? Can the cut quality help streamline downstream operations?

Bohlen: Although DDL has advantages in all material types, it is most notable in aluminum where, when it is combined with new innovations in assist gas delivery, parts can be produced dross free and at speeds that far exceed the same power level in fiber or disk lasers; this avoids secondary handling to remove the dross. Overall the DDL can produce parts with a higher edge quality. Speed is important, but many customers are equally focused on part quality.

Q: Why should fabricators, both large and small, consider installing DDL in their shops?

Bohlen: Surprisingly, there are many CO2 laser users who have yet to purchase their first fiber laser. We are often asked if a fiber laser is purchased today, “what’s next”? DDL are game changers and are most certainly the future. In the few short years since DDL’s introduction to the market we have seen both small job shops and large OEMs purchase the technology. They have seen the advantages of DDL, and rather than take an intermediate step to fiber, many are moving to “what’s next,” that is, incorporating a competitive advantage in laser cutting that others have yet to implement. As power levels expand, so will the markets for DDL. It’s a very exciting time in our industry. FFJ

Al Bohlen is president of Mazak Optonics Corp.’s North American operations. Bohlen has extensive industry experience with major fabrication equipment manufacturers in a variety of technical and sales roles since 1986.

Sources

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