The next generation of laser technologies for material processing machines need to deliver higher precision, throughput and, most important, an extreme flexibility. Current ultrafast laser technology has demonstrated applicability for enabling high precision micromachining, but current throughput is not efficient enough for widescale industrial manufacturing and the parameters of existing lasers are not flexible enough to consistently work in the optimal conditions necessary to minimize heat-affected zone while using all of the available laser power. The kW-flexiburst project aims to develop a breakthrough laser technology to help overcome this critical barrier, which could enable the next generation of manufacturing in a range of industrial sectors. To develop the technology, kW-flexiburst has been granted €5.12M from the European Union’s H2020 ICT 2018 Research and Innovation Framework Programme under Grant Agreement no 825246 as part of the initiative of the Photonics Public Private Partnership (PPP).
kW-flexiburst, which stands for Ultrashort pulsed kW-class laser with unprecedented flexible GHz burst operation for high precision high-throughput industrial manufacturing, started on 1st January 2019 and will run until 31st December 2022. The project consortium includes CNRS/FEMTO-ST Institute (France) from which Dr. François Courvoisier will act as the Project Coordinator, Universität Stuttgart (Germany), High Q Laser GmbH (Austria), Université de Bordeaux (France), GFH GmbH (Germany), Daetwyler Graphics Precision (Switzerland) and Modus Research and Innovation (UK).
To achieve the project goals, kW-flexiburst will develop a high-power ultra-short pulse laser capable of generating bursts that can be arbitrarily adjusted in terms of burst repetition rate, intra-burst repetition rate, number of pulses per burst and relative intensities in the burst while maintaining 1 kW average power. This will be enabled by a radically new concept of seed oscillator, which offers the opportunity to work at GHz repetition rates. The flexible laser performance will be demonstrated in relevant industrial applications, which require high throughput/ high quality laser processing methods and therefore will benefit significantly from the high mean power and the tunable pulses provided by the kW-flexiburst system. The selected applications span a wide range of industrial fields from micro-structuring of metals, ceramics and other dielectrics, drilling of hard substrates and cutting of transparent materials. Each of them carries the potential for significant or even disruptive improvements of the related industrial production process by employing the kW-flexiburst laser technology in combination with the beam delivery concepts and process methods proposed by the project.