There are 2 main types of lasers: pulsed fiber lasers and continuous wave (CW) fiber lasers. While both types of lasers produce light, they differ in the way they produce and emit it. At Netalux we expressly chose for pulsed lasers. In this article we’ll explain the main advantages in comparison with CW lasers.
Continuous wave (CW) lasers produce a steady stream of laser light. They are characterized by a constant output power. CW lasers are used in applications that require a stable and consistent light output to melt surfaces, such as laser welding and laser cutting machines.
Pulsed lasers, on the other hand, produce bursts of laser light rather than a continuous stream. They are characterized by a pulsed output power, resulting in very high peak powers at a relatively low average power. This type of lasers is used when high peak power is required to ablate contaminants, with a minimum of heat affected zone (HAZ) on the substrate. For example in the case of laser cleaning.
Advantages of pulsed lasers:
With many years of experience Netalux develops award-winning laser machines with a top-hat or gaussian pulsed lasers. An important distinction with CW lasers is the cost. CW lasers are generally less expensive ($/Watt). Why? First of all they don’t require the specialized components that pulsed lasers do, such as pulse-forming electronics & optics which can handle high peak power. Furthermore, there are a lot of advantages when choosing a pulsed laser:
- Higher peak power: Pulsed lasers can deliver a much higher peak power than CW lasers because they emit a burst of energy in a short period of time. Pulsed lasers concentrate so much energy in nanosecond pulses an ablating shockwave is created at first impact with the contaminant making it the ideal way to process and clean. Our Jango laser machine of 1000W average power produces bursts of up to 1MegaWatt in just one pulse!
- Higher efficiency: Pulsed lasers are generally more efficient than CW lasers because they only emit energy when they are actively pulsing and because the ablation process requires high peak power. Without ablation, there is only evaporation which takes longer and requires more average power. On many applications, like paint removal, a 200W pulsed laser will easily outrun a 1kW CW with a factor 4, while consuming only a fraction of the energy and leaving the surface much colder.
- Field of use: Where pulsed lasers really stand out compared to CW is the large variation of contaminants that will come off without much effort. From thick marine coatings, product vapors, glues, chemical compositions, rubber, rust… all of the above can be cleaned with pulsed lasers, where CW will limit its field of use to fresh flash rust or oil removal.
- “Technical” material processing: Pulsed lasers can be used to process materials in a way that CW lasers cannot. They deliver a high energy pulse that creates a plasma, allowing for more efficient and precise material processing. Want to clean or process stainless steel, aluminium, machine steel or copper without damage? Our laser technology is synonymous with quality and reliability.
- Reduced heat affected zone: Pulsed lasers can reduce the heat affected zone (HAZ) in materials because the high energy pulse is delivered in a short period of time, minimizing the amount of heat that is transferred to the material. Micromelting of the substrate can thus be avoided, even if the same surface is treated again and again. This can be useful for applications where it is important to avoid structural changes of the surface, such as in the injection moulding industry or medical applications.
In conclusion, while a pulsed laser is maybe a higher investment, the ROI will be much bigger. Especially when you choose a mobile or stationary Netalux laser machine. No challenge is too big for our Needle and Jango.
Not sure if you require a pulsed laser with high peak power? You can read this article or contact us and we’ll happily advise you!