Fans of the blockbuster movie Star Wars immediately think of one thing when they hear the word laser: the lightsaber swung by Darth Vader & Co. What fascinates us in fiction has also become a popular constructive tool in the industrial sector. Even while George Lucas was producing his space adventure in the mid-1970s, laser tools had long since become industrial reality: improved CO2 lasers and the development of new types of lasers enabled the first applications in metal-working, especially in the automotive and aircraft industries.
“It took a while for lasers to be used in glass processing,” explains Bernd Hoppe, Head of the Competence Field Laser and Post Processing at SCHOTT. “In the meantime, they have become robust, reliable and economical. When it comes to specialty glasses, they do an extremely good job, with highly reproducible results in 24/7 use, high flexibility and no wear and tear.” The process engineer knows what he is talking about. He has been working intensively on glass-based laser processes for over two decades and is a stake-holder in over 75 patents on novel glass processing technologies. His 15-member team of experts works on development projects that involve the use of lasers – from the initial process idea to the successful transfer for use in serial production.
The infrastructure in the so-called experiment hall of the research center is always kept up-to-date. For the last few months, it has also housed a glass processing facility with the most powerful commercially available ultrashort pulse laser for industrial applications. This is used to develop particle-free cutting processes, flexible structuring processes and innovative optical concepts or glass processing. The processing area of the system is 600 x 1,200 mm. “We achieve extreme specifications with the new tool. More specifically, tolerances of ten micrometers or less,” explains Michael Kluge, the person responsible for the facility and Project Manager for Post Processing. His job is to make the production technology of the laser tools that are available on the market accessible to SCHOTT for use in glass processing, to develop it further and ensure that it is ready for use in development projects.