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Cool laser power

Corelase specialises in cutting-edge laser technology that offers competitive and cost-effective solutions for micro- and macromachining needs. The company’s long experience in semiconductors, optics, electronics, and fiber technology lie at the heart of its fiber-coupled diode laser systems and continuous wave and ultra-short pulse mode-locked fiber laser systems.

Micro-manufacturing processes are the fastest-growing application area for lasers, driven by the dynamic consumer electronics market. This is typified by the booming photovoltaic industry, which has boosted the demand for laser microprocessing applications and alternative manufacturing technologies that can lower the high initial capital costs required to set up a production plant.

Fast turnaround times between new product versions call for generic processes that can be transferred directly from computer design to manufacturing; and the printing industry’s computer-to-plate (CTP) process has become a model for electronics and semiconductor manufacturing.

With its excellent beam quality, ultra-short pulse, and high repetition rate, Corelase’s X-LASE is a compact, mode-locked fibre laser solution that generates a minimal thermal load.

Printable electronics or solar cells manufactured on flexible substrates are an ideal area for lasers, making roll-to-roll manufacturing possible – thanks to the non-physical contact interaction with materials they offer. New production methods for flexible PCBs, devices with smaller features, and thin film patterning methods can all benefit from laser-based tools.

Not quite there yet

Wet etching, or chemical lithography, has become the most common thin-film patterning technology. Various laser systems have been introduced into the process to reduce the number of processing steps involved and its high capital costs, the time required by the process, its inflexibility, and its environmental problems.

Direct laser writing, also known as laser ablation or laser patterning, has the potential to overcome some of these difficulties, but conventional lasers leave a number of problems related to large heat-affected zones (HAZ) largely unsolved, which has a detrimental effect on processing quality. The use of green or UV lasers, and optimising laser parameters, has reduced this problem, but has not eliminated it altogether. Typical remaining issues include chipping, delamination, and edge quality when processing thin films.

The growing use of different kinds of metal or metal oxide films or foils by the electronics, display, solar cell, and semiconductor industries – and the increased demand for smaller features, free forms, better quality, and higher throughput, together with lower cost of ownership – has created an opportunity for alternative tools.

Brass processed with an X-LASE unit exhibits no recasting waste, burr, or other debris.

A better solution

One such tool that has proved it has a lot to offer in structuring very fine features in thin films or cutting thin foils is Corelase’s X-LASE industrial mode-locked fiber laser.This picosecond-pulse fiber laser can bypass many of the problems associated with laser-based direct writing and deliver high-quality processing results at high processing speeds. The X-LASE is a compact, turnkey, all-fiber laser system that has been developed especially for the microfabrication market. The unit delivers very high wall plug efficiency and good reliability with minimal service; and its compact size and fiber delivery options make it easy to integrate with automated systems. All in all, the X-LASE represents a true alternative for the electronics, display, solar cell, and semiconductor industries.

Direct laser writing reduces the number of processing steps involved in the lithographic process and its high capital costs, the time required to process materials, its inflexibility, and its environmental problems.

The X-LASE advantage

The X-LASE family of Ultra Short Pulse (USP) fiber lasers uses very high irradiance (W/cm2) during the laser pulse to ensure that the material being processed does not just melt but is ejected at high kinetic velocity, generating very little heat conduction. Residual heat is conducted away across the surface a number of nanoseconds after the laser pulse.

Corelase’s X-LASE turnkey systems offer a winning combination of compact size, robust design, high efficiency, high processing speed, and fiber delivery – combined with easy integration with automated material handling equipment.

The X-LASE family is ideal for microfabrication and applying functional coatings on large surfaces. X-LASE units can be used to groove, cut, and pattern materials directly, without creating large heat-affected zones, recasting problems, burr, or debris.

  • Compact mode-locked fiber design, with an ultra-short 10-30 picosecond pulse width and a pulse energy of up to 6 µJ
  • Excellent beam quality (M2<1.5)
  • Megahertz repetition rate, adjustable between 1 MHz and 4 MHz
  • Can be connected to direct optics or scanners that focus the light down to a 10-30µm spot
  • Robust design and easy-to-use interface
  • Minimal debris, burr/recast layer, and heat-affected zone
  • Ideal for microcutting, microdrilling, micropatterning, and evaporation with minimal thermal load.
> Jari Sillanpää
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)