Laser beam techniques have undergone a tremendous boost in materials technology during this decade. Nevertheless the light beam as a tool still offers vast fields of novel applications that have not been utilized so far because of high cost low energetic efficiency and bulky shape of conventional laser equipment. Presently we are witnessing the introduction of high power diode lasers into materials technology which compares to the advent of the transistor in electronics some time ago. The extraordinarily high energetic efficiency (more than 10 times that of the Nd:YAG-laser) and its compact shape (about 10 times smaller than comparable CO2-lasers) enable the diode laser to be easily integrated into existing production lines and thus make it a favorite beam tool of the near future. In the future the high power diode laser will not only serve as a favourable substitute heat source for processes as soldering gluing tempering forming welding of metals and polymers hardening surface cladding eroding labeling etc. but also as a component of novel hybrid technologies. Examples for these are laser supported turning and milling tooling and hardening in one clamp and laser induction welding. A wide range of high power diode laser equipment is available for laser beam welding (including the welding of a large variety of small parts as-punched or cold formed parts also thin metal sheets and polymer coated foils); laser beam hardening (including the surface hardening of small parts of hardenable steels with absorption as high as 70 % - the hardening depth of optionally 0.1 - 1.5 mm predestines this technique to application to small tools and parts of textile machines precision mechanics medical devices etc); laser beam surface cladding. External beam shaping systems such as scanners or beam splitters can extend the application of the high power diode laser.
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