The Laser Revolutionized the Manufacturing Industry Optical components that support the laser processing technology at its core
The term laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. A laser beam is an intense artificial light obtained by converting electrical energy into light energy and amplifying it. The energy density of the laser beam is about one million times that of light in the natural world. In 1960 in the United States, the world’s first laser oscillation was achieved. Since then, laser performance has improved phenomenally and various laser oscillators and applications have been developed. The features of lasers include monochromaticity, high directivity, light convergence and high energy density. Utilizing these features in the 1980s, laser began to be introduced in the field of materials processing. Lasers enable noncontact, flexible and fast machining (e.g. cutting, welding and drilling). They first penetrated manufacturing worksites in the steel and automotive sectors. Since the 1990s, being recognized as an essential technology, practical use of lasers has advanced in the manufacturing of electronic components for cellular phones and digital home appliances, such as liquid crystal displays and semiconductors, as well as in circuit patterning and other micromachining and the manufacturing of components for 3D printers.
The key components used to exploit the full potential of a laser cutting machine are optical components that include the lenses through which the laser beams converge and mirrors that reflect the beams. The Sumitomo Electric Group developed zinc- selenide (ZnSe) lenses for CO2 laser cutters in 1985. Since then, Sumitomo Electric has provided diverse types of optical components to meet market needs. The laser is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and is said to play a leading role behind the scenes in modern society. In what follows, we explore the Sumitomo Electric Group's history and future in the development of optical components for laser processing.