Fiber lasers: A versatile technology
Recent advances in fiber laser welding are highly advantageous for lightweighting and battery manufacturing. Fiber lasers are reliable, compact and energy efficient systems that offer the best beam quality for applications where precision is important. The weight of a vehicle can be significantly reduced by minimizing the size of flanges with fiber laser processing. Meanwhile, beam delivery via an optical fiber ensures simplicity of integration into robotics. Consequently, process speed is maximized; material costs and operation costs are minimized. Learn more about the fiber lasers technology and market in the recent IDTechEx Research market report on the topic: Fiber Lasers 2018-2028: Technologies, Opportunities, Markets & Forecasts.
Fiber laser welding systems optimized for dissimilar metal joining are emerging as an essential tool for the electric vehicles market. Fiber lasers utilizing a wobble beam process produce strong and highly uniform weld seams without causing thermal damage to the surrounding materials. Key players developing fiber laser systems for battery welding include IPG Photonics (USA) and Trumpf (Germany).
Toyota are testing autonomous vehicles with 1550 nm LiDAR developed by Luminar, a California-based start-up. Image source: Toyota Research Institute
Some fiber laser manufacturers are also entering the automotive light detection and ranging (LiDAR) market. Fiber lasers that operate in the 1.5 μm wavelength band are much safer for human vision than the 905 nm diode lasers used in conventional LiDAR systems. This eye-safe wavelength enables fiber laser LiDAR to operate at higher powers and offer long-range sensing for autonomous vehicles; superior resolution and full functionality with fewer lasers are additional advantages.
In January 2018, Keopsys Quantel (prior to Lumibird rebranding) told IDTechEx about their strategy for scaling up the production and reducing the unit price of 1550 nm fiber lasers for automotive LiDAR applications. Subsequently, new production lines were installed in March 2018 and fiber lasers were successfully demonstrated in autonomous vehicles, resulting in growing interest from the transport sector. Meanwhile, Luminar (USA) are a start-up who are also commercializing 1550 nm LiDAR technology. A typical light source design proposed by Luminar in their patents is a laser diode (semiconductor device) combined with single or multi-stage fiber amplifiers (erbium doped) to produce high-power 1550 nm infrared radiation. Toyota began testing an autonomous vehicle with 1550 nm LiDAR in 2017.
Technology consulting company IDTechEx recently published a market report titled Fiber Lasers 2018-2028: Technologies, Opportunities, Markets & Forecasts. The report provides a detailed analysis of fiber laser innovations that will have a major impact on the automotive industry within the next decade. In an upcoming free webinar on fiber lasers, technology analyst Dr Nilushi Wijeyasinghe provides an overview of the key innovations driving growth in the material processing and sensing market segments. IDTechEx forecast the global fiber laser market to reach a size of $8.9 billion in 2028.
Preview of the global fiber laser market forecast indicating growth of key market segments. The analysis is based on original research by IDTechEx.
Key fiber laser manufacturers by revenue from fiber laser sales and location of headquarters. Coherent includes the subsidiaries Coherent Rofin and Coherent Nufern. Source: IDTechEx.