Diode Lasers developed for 3D Metal Printing

Glasgow, UK-based Vector Photonics is leading the Bloodline research and development project; an Innovate UK-funded, international consortium project developing PCSEL-based chips (Photonic Crystal Surface Emitting Lasers) for 3D metal laser printing.

Vector is leading the £1.5 million project and is joined by a Japanese, semiconductor, epitaxy, manufacturer and the UK’s Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (CSA Catapult), which will undertake chip reliability testing.

According to Vector, an industrial equipment manufacturer in Japan, will provide product assessment and, ultimately, a route to market, although the chips produced will be suitable for any printer manufacturer.

Revolutionizing the Selective Laser Melting process

According to Dr. Richard Taylor, CTO at Vector Photonics, “3D metal laser printers hold metal powder in a powder bed at just below its melting point. Currently, CO2 or fibre lasers, directed by mirrors, scan over the surface of the powder, melting it onto the layer below, in a process called selective laser melting (SLM).

He said “Vector’s PCSEL technology will revolutionize the SLM process”. “PCSELs offer a unique combination of increased laser power, by scaling up the PCSEL arrays; improved reliability, by removing the mirrors and offering a solid-state solution; and greater manufacturing efficiency – the result of higher resolution printing with less finishing overheads and faster printing speeds. “We believe that PCSELs will enable an entirely new class of next generation, metal printers and contribute to even greater market growth.”

According to Neil Martin, CEO of Vector Photonics, their PCSELs produce the speed performance of edge emitting lasers (EELs) and VCSELs, whilst their tested and packaged cost is 50% that of EELs and they deliver more than 10 times the power of VCSELs.

Project Bloodline’s full name is Bright Laser Diodes for Advance Metal Additive Manufacturing Systems.

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