At present, the cost performance ratio of femtosecond lasers is getting higher and higher, and the demand for excellent cutting quality of small medical devices is growing day by day. These two factors have driven the tremendous development of femtosecond laser market.
Fiber laser has relatively low cost, scalable power and high reliability, and has been playing a leading role in cutting and drilling applications in the medical device manufacturing industry for many years. Femtosecond lasers have great advantages in cutting quality, but for a long time, they have only won a small market share.
However, as shown in the figure above, the sales data of Coherent pipe cutting system shows that this situation has suddenly changed very quickly. Let’s see what drives the rapid growth of femtosecond laser market share compared with fiber lasers.
The use of femtosecond lasers for material processing has many unique advantages, which have long been known to the public.
For traditional lasers such as fiber lasers, most of their material interactions are photothermal, which will produce a thermal affected zone. In precision applications, this limits the minimum size of parts that can be machined cleanly without melting, can cause unacceptable functional or visual damage, and often requires mechanical post-processing (e.g., deburring, manual polishing, or reaming). In contrast, the pulses provided by femtosecond lasers can be several orders of magnitude shorter, and the peak power is much higher, which can make the materials evaporate instantaneously before the heat is transferred to the parts. The cutting accuracy is higher and the temperature is relatively lower, which can produce smaller parts without recasting debris, so no grinding or polishing is required. In addition, this method is applicable to almost any material, including parts with mixed materials such as polymer/metal coating (see the figure below).
The market’s demand for medical devices with smaller, thinner components and more cutting details (such as peripheral stents, sea wave tubes, minimally invasive tools, etc.) continues to grow, which has greatly boosted the recent market share of femtosecond laser processing. We can see that this is especially true for equipment configured with pipe cutting geometry as shown in the above figure. In addition, the use of more challenging and expensive materials is also an important driver. Magnesium bioabsorbable stent is an example. Post processing after fiber laser processing may reduce its output by 50%, while femtosecond laser cutting does not require post-processing. Other industries (e.g., displays/electronics) are also gradually adopting this technology, which brings additional market demand, further promoting laser manufacturers to develop advanced femtosecond laser systems and machines.
In fact, femtosecond lasers have reached a new maturity in terms of performance, economy and reliability. Power is a particularly important performance parameter because it directly determines the throughput. The cost per watt of most femtosecond lasers has also recently declined. Therefore, these lasers can not only help to increase the output, but also reduce the cost of individual parts. In addition, the cost savings achieved by eliminating the mechanical post-processing steps are very economical for some precision cutting tasks.
Admittedly, most medical device manufacturers want not only a laser, but a complete laser system. The last step to realize this vision is the launch of advanced femtosecond lasers.
Femtosecond laser can realize simplified automatic component processing and monitoring, and it is also equipped with easy-to-use software, which can be used without a lot of training or professional knowledge. This allows users to flexibly switch between different devices in small batches, or run high-capacity components for a long time without being on duty.
Nowadays, for anyone in the medical device manufacturing industry, a big problem in buying new machines is to make a choice between femtosecond lasers and fiber lasers. A major advantage of fiber lasers is that they enable faster cutting and cutting of thicker parts because of the higher available power. However, for thinner components, power and speed advantages are often greatly reduced due to the need to reduce the repetition rate and avoid cumulative thermal damage. Therefore, in the final analysis, the choice of the most appropriate laser actually depends on the specific application scenario.
In this context, Changzhou MEN Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd. has both optical fiber and femtosecond precision laser cutting machine, and can provide customized processing solutions according to customers’ specific needs to help customers improve processing efficiency and product quality.