Compact fast-steering tip/tilt laser scanner for high power material processing applications

The common configuration for deflecting laser beams in two dimensions is based on two single-axis galvanometric scanners placed perpendicular to each other. Over recent years, these fast scanners have proved to be both very reliable and very accurate. They are widely available in the marketplace and have wide-ranging technical specifications. However, such a configuration is rather bulky and can not satisfy the needs of industry which seeks compact solutions for an easy integration of these scanning heads into their production lines. In addition, two separate mirrors leads to optical aberrations when these scanning heads are used in conjunction with scanning lenses, which are specially designed for a single entrance pupil. Therefore, a compact fast-steering tip/tilt laser scanner with a single mirror would act as a key component in diverse applications, e.g. in material processing, astronomy, intersatellite laser communications, imaging systems, bio-medical and ophthalmologic applications. The compact two-axis tilt laser scanner presented in this work can perform a variety of functions such as image tracking, beam stabilization and alignment, line-of-sight pointing, and scene scanning. Designing such a scanner required a multi-disciplinary approach involving optics, mechanics, electromagnetics, sensors and control theories. The scanner is composed of one single mirror with a large active area and has a single point of rotation for the two axes of tilt. Moreover, the center of gravity coincides with the center of rotation to reach optimum dynamic behavior. The scanner's compact dimensions allow an easy integration in the various optical systems. Furthermore, the mirror is easily interchangeable which gives greater flexibility in the choice of the laser source. Another major advantage of the proposed design is its ability to be scaled down to miniaturized versions. The scaling depends mainly on the active surface of the mirror, which is generally specified by the application. The larger the mirror, the higher its inertia and the larger are the actuators in order to guarantee high performance. Two pairs of push-pull linear electromagnetic actuators are used to drive the mirror of the scanner. The mirror suspension is based on a sliding bearing composed of a cone-ball contact with optimized friction and wear behavior. A magnetic pre-load force is used to hold the mirror and to give sufficient rotational stiffness. Furthermore, a position transducer based on a photodetector and a miniature laser pen is integrated in the module and is used for closed loop feedback positioning. The mirror can be tilted around both axes by ± 61mrad (± 3.5°) with an accuracy better than 50μrad. Moreover, a differential resolution in the order of 2.5μrad, and settling times for maximum tip and tilt deflections of 10ms and 14ms respectively are achieved. The overall volume of the scanner is 30 x 40 x 50 mm3, and its total weight does not exceed 90g. Design, simulations and experimental investigations were carried out in this work in order to optimize the different components of the tip/tilt scanner. These components are: the motors, the bearing system, the position transducer and the feedback control loop. An analytical model that allows an optimization of the geometrical parameters for an electromagnetic actuator based on rectangular coils and magnets is proposed. This model proved to be very reliable and can be extended to the design of a variety of electromagnetic driving systems. In addition, an extensive analysis of the beam path distortions generated when a single mirror is pivoted around two axes is covered. Furthermore, correcting equations used to compensate for the systematic errors resulting from this configuration are proposed. The tip/tilt scanner is suited to a variety of applications in industrial material laser processing. These applications are not just restricted to conventional processes like welding, cutting, drilling, and marking, but also to new technologies such as micro-manipulation of parts by laser. In this new approach, bending and shrinkage of the material result due to laser irradiation, allowing fast adjustment and positioning of micro-mechanical and opto-mechanical components with sub-micron accuracy. Furthermore, local annealing of shape memory alloys, leading to stiffness variation in monolithic parts such as micro-grippers, represents a very innovative application in smart materials. On the other hand, the scanner is also a key component in bio-medical and ophthalmologic applications. The first measurements carried out with the scanner for optical tomography of the retina appeared very promising. Furthermore, an optical tweezers set-up has been realized using the scanner, allowing easy and flexible manipulation of laser beam trapped cells and molecules.

Salathé, René-Paul
Lausanne, EPFL

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-01-27

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