Until now, industrial lasers have been able to perform only one
specific task effectively – they are generally good at either
hardening, cutting or welding metal. Moreover, they are often bulky
and unwieldy. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for
Material and Beam Technology, in Dresden, Germany, presented real
multitalent at Laser 2007, in Munich – a fibre laser system
that is capable of hardening, cutting, and even welding, if
Lasers have become an indispensable tool in many areas of indus- try. They are used to cut sheet metal for vehicles, harden turbine blades and weld aircraft bodies. These bundles of light energy are fast, precise, and have established a niche for themselves in many different sectors.
However, despite their differ- ences, all lasers have one thing in common – they are relatively inflexible. On the one hand, they are usually only good at performing a single task. On the other hand many industrial lasers take the form of large, unshapely cabinets that can only work on complex three-dimensional components with a great deal of technical effort.
For a long time, the use of fibre lasers was confined to applications in the telecommunications sector. Their signals were just strong enough to send tiny light pulses along the glass fibres that carried telephone conversations and Internet messages. In the last few years, fibre lasers have been developed that can generate light with an output of several kilowatts in fibres with a thickness of only 50