A new generation of carbon monoxide (CO) lasers from Coherent, promise enhanced processing characteristics in applications ranging from glass, ceramic and film cutting and drilling, through medical and aesthetics fractional skin resurfacing. While CO lasers were first developed decades ago, practical limitations in their lifetime and operating characteristics restricted them to a handful of niche low power laboratory applications. Now, technological breakthroughs at Coherent have yielded a new class of high power CO lasers with similar lifetime, reliability and maintenance characteristics to the company’s, highly regarded, slab and waveguide based discharge CO2 lasers, opening up a range of possible uses.
CO lasers output at a wavelength of approximately 5µm, as opposed to 10.6µm for CO2 lasers. Since some materials which transmit at the longer wavelength absorb at 5µm, and vice versa, this leads to advantages in various materials processing applications. For example, there is stronger absorption at 5µm in certain plastic films, polymers and water, as well as some of the dielectric materials and copper oxides used in printed circuit boards (PCBs). This will therefore enable higher efficiency processing of these materials. Conversely, there is very low absorption at 5µm in chalcogenide fibers; opening up the potential for fibre delivery (the lack of a fibre delivery option has limited CO2 lasers in certain applications).
The other significant advantage of shorter wavelength is that it can be focused to a smaller spot size than a longer wavelength. The CO laser output can be focused to a spot 2 times smaller than that of a CO2 laser. This enables the production of smaller holes and features, and narrower kerf widths when cutting.
Coherent offers CO lasers over a wide range of performance power levels all with high quality beam (M² < 1.2).