It takes the right high-end optics to turn lasers into the key technology that opens new paths towards more efficiency, flexibility and precision. An enormous array of laser applications by the WILD Group demonstrates what is already possible today.

When lasers were invented in the early 1960s, the word was that this would be a tool in search of an application. Some colleagues of inventor Theodore Maiman even joked that he had found the solution to a problem that did not even exist. Today, lasers are often referred to as the ”smartphone“ of industrial tools. Like a master key, lasers open doors to ever more applications.

This is also the case at WILD. For almost 30 years now, the technology partner has been exploiting the potential of laser technology to meet its customer requirements. Whether for removing, applying, marking, scanning or measuring – in every intensity, direction or form – no other tool is as flexible and quick as laser light. Provided, however, that you know how to form the laser beam accordingly and choose the suitable wavelength and laser performance. This is exactly where the WILD Group‘s core competence lies. Beam-shaping and the right optics design allow for a huge spectrum of applications. ”Only after one guides a laser beam through an optical system will it eventually obtain the characteristics required for the respective task. That is why our work begins where the laser beam leaves the source“, explains Stefan Werkl, Head of Optical Technologies at WILD GmbH. However, the Group‘s development and manufacturing expertise goes far beyond that and has expanded over the decades, as have the specialised fields of laser technology where WILD and PHOTONIC operate: from optics for laser cutting, ultrashort pulse lasers for material processing and laser modules for medical technology or particle analysis to laser distance measurement.

WILD manufactures the optics module of a 3D laser scanner series on behalf of a leading supplier of 3D measurement technology which allows for quick, easy and precise measurements up to 350 m indoors and outdoors. Compared to other systems available on the market, this series offers extremely high stability to temperature and humidity variations. In addition, the devices are significantly more compact and inexpensive, and they play off their advantages especially when scanning shiny and dark objects. In ophthalmology, too, laser scans have become an indispensable part of modern diagnostics and follow-up monitoring. The ever-increasing pixel density of the 3D images in particular guarantees that the diagnosis and the subsequent surgical interventions are done more precisely than ever before. This has been rendered possible by an ever-higher scanning speed, which has risen dramatically in recent years. As an FDA-certified development and manufacturing partner, WILD is capable of quickly transitioning such quality leaps to serial status. This is a skill that is highly appreciated by a leading company specialising in ophthalmology, for whom WILD has been manufacturing several product groups for decades.

The NanoOne 3D printer impressively demonstrates the exciting possibilities offered by high-resolution laser lithography systems. The device was developed by UpNano, optimised together with WILD and is now being manufactured by the technology partner. The device can print objects from sub-micrometre to centimetre scale with unprecedented speed and precision. This 3D printer‘s secret to success lies in the laser power of up to one watt, which is several times more powerful than in comparable systems. As a result, it can print highly precise 3D structures in black and, thanks to a combination with a new transparent material, even complete optical systems.

As an expert in illumination solutions, PHOTONIC is also heavily involved in the latest laser applications. ”The unique properties of laser light are increasingly finding their way into medical lighting optics. We concentrate on the development of innovative light sources, especially where increasingly thinner light guides are advantageous“, emphasises Fabian Lücking, Optics Project Manager at PHOTONIC. The latest customer example is a multi-colour light source for fluorescence microscopy with a light spectrum from the visible range (VIS) to NIR and UV. To achieve this, the several LEDs are optically mixed and coupled together again in a light guide. Alternatively, individual colour channels can be fitted with a laser instead of an LED. ”We have accompanied this project in all phases, from the search for suitable LEDs, laser diodes and dielectric filters through the design of the light path, the sensitivity and tolerance analysis of the optical system, to prototype development and transition to production. Today, the customer has a light source of unique modularity. It can be easily adapted to new applications, yet still manufactured at scale“, says Lücking.

A highly precise optical sensor that records and detects ultra-fine dust particles smaller than 0.2 micrometres. This is another in a series of laser applications realised by WILD. ”To achieve this, we had to redesign the laser module, develop an optics design for the available prototypes and also create the necessary measuring environment“, Stefan Werkl summarises.

Examples like these demonstrate that WILD ticks all the boxes when it comes to qualifying as a strategic partner for laser technology. This begins with optics design, covers all areas of manufacturing of precision parts and extends into the assembly and adjustment of laser modules, including the alignment turning of optics with arcsecond precision. In terms of laser sources, WILD has built up expertise in various areas for the wavelength range from 380 nm to 1700 nm: Nd:YAG lasers for drilling, welding and cutting, diode lasers for measuring and scanning applications, fibre lasers for data transfers and medical applications and gas lasers for cutting and engraving. When it comes to power classes, the technology partner’s experience extends from milliwatts to kilowatts of optical power. To meet the extremely high standards with respect to the production environment, WILD applies a closed process chain and uses all corresponding opportunities available in component and precision cleaning and cleanroom manufacturing. This guarantees that all components are free from particles and film contamination, a prerequisite for the long-term stability of laser optics.