Totally new laser technology for ceramic welding process was presented by engineers from the USA. The laser technology is based on the use of pulsed fiber laser that emits a series of short, ultrafast laser beam pulses to melt ceramic materials along with the interaction between two ceramic parts and fuse them. Additionally, the melting is local because the process of heating focuses only at the interface resulting in the technique of “ultrafast pulsed fiber laser welding”.
It should be noted that to make this laser system technology work, the optimization of the transparency of the ceramic material as well as fiber laser parameters such as exposure time, number of laser beam pulses, and duration of pulses is required. Thus, the combination of these aspects allows achieving optimal results, the laser system energy couples strictly to the ceramic making the use of low laser beam power (less than 50 watts) possible at room temperature.
To be more precise, “the “sweet spot” for the ultrafast laser beam pulses was two picoseconds, at the high repetition rate of one megahertz, along with a moderate total number of pulses”. Therefore, the developed pulsed fiber laser technology enables to increase the melt diameter, reduce material ablation, and synchronize cooling just right for the best weld process possible.
Moreover, the engineers have succeeded to escape temperature gradients from being set up throughout the ceramic due to the accurate focusing the energy from the laser beam. Finally, the current fiber laser technology allows encasing temperature-sensitive materials without damaging them.
The technology of pulsed fiber laser was already tested and demonstrated: the engineers welded a transparent cylindrical cap to the inside of a ceramic tube. Herewith, the welds made by the pulsed laser system are strong enough to hold a vacuum environment. The thing is that there is a similarity between the vacuum tests of welds made by the pulsed fiber laser and the tests used in industry to control seals on electronic and optoelectronic devices.
Also, the engineers confirm that it was impossible to encase or seal electronic components inside ceramics before the developed laser technology because it was necessary to install the entire assembly in a furnace, which would damage the electronics. In spite of the fact that the main application of the ultrafast pulsed fiber laser in welding industry was the welding process of tiny ceramic features (less than 2 cm in size), nowadays it is planned to optimize the fiber laser technique for larger scales, as well as for various types of materials and geometries.
Finally, due to laser system technology, the welding process could make ceramics an integral part in devices for harsh environmental conditions as well as in optoelectronic or electronic packages that require visible-radio frequency transparency.
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