Roland DG Corp., a leading manufacturer of desktop fabrication devices, is researching this possibility. Management recently announced the start of a joint research relationship with GPI, the Graduate School for the Creation of New Photonics Industries located in Hamamatsu, Japan, to study the application of femtosecond laser technology to the fields of 3D fabrication and healthcare.
A femtosecond laser is an ultrashort pulse of intense light concentrated at a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) time. Peak power is generated by compressing and oscillating the pulse length of a laser to a few femtoseconds.
A femtosecond laser reduces thermal damage to the irradiated area due to the laser’s ablation effect, where the strength of the laser beam induces a plasma state to the affected material. This method does not create bumps or distortion around the fabricated area and the effect of the heat is limited, so it is possible to achieve a high quality finish.
Thus, femtosecond lasers could be effective for precision fabrication with extremely hard materials. Currently, practical applications of the femtosecond laser have expanded into fabrication with industrial metals and carbon fibers, keratorefractive surgery and cataract treatment, and research and development in biotechnology.
Challenges remain, however, including downsizing and cost reduction of the oscillator, which is required to create a femtosecond laser, and conducting further research on how materials change during fabrication.
Hisashi Bito, Executive Officer and division vice president of Easy Shape business development at Roland DG, said, “Through this joint research, our company is aiming to explore the possibility of applying femtosecond laser technology to our 3D digital fabrication and healthcare areas with the objective of producing the first desk-top femtosecond laser fabrication machine.”
Yoshihiro Takiguchi, Vice-President of GPI and professor of optical information and systems, added, “At GPI, we are looking forward to investigating new industrial applications for laser processing with the goal of creating new industries. The state of the art ultrashort pulse laser we are using was acquired with the financial support of the Japanese government and has the ability to instantly ionize matter. By combining the ultrashort pulse laser to the Roland DG’s 3D digital fabrication tools, we can enhance our knowledge of how materials change during fabrication, and how we can apply the latest laser technology to a variety of industries.”
Roland DG Corp.