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The Photonics Spotlight

How Laser Development Can Go Wrong

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Ref.: encyclopedia article on laser development

Much of the content of this Photonics Spotlight article was previously part of the encyclopedia article on laser development. I decided to move it here, as the Spotlight appears to be a more suitable place.

Let us deal with a fictional story, which will probably remind many of what they experienced in real life. A diode-pumped passively mode-locked solid-state laser needs to be developed. A common and apparently sensible but nevertheless risky approach is illustrated in the following:

Note that the taken approach included sensible step-by-step procedures, definitely made use of previous experience, and did not involve obvious mistakes. Why has it nevertheless worked so badly in this situation, which will surely look very familiar to many engineers? The main reasons are

Obviously we badly need an improved procedure for such development tasks. This is what the article on laser development presents, and does not need to be repeated here.

An interesting additional question is why despite all these advantages it is still very common particularly in smaller laser companies to muddle through, apparently ignoring the painful consequences. Some possible reasons are

There are ways, however, to deal with these obstacles. For sure, the really successful manufacturers have learned how to arrange a well working development process.

It is clear that except for rather trivial cases, a well structured development process is absolutely vital for a laser company. It does require contributions from a very experienced expert, who may have to be hired as an external consultant and will in any case spend a limited amount of time at a considerably higher salary per hour. However, overall this approach is nevertheless much cheaper and also generates revenue at an earlier stage. That temporal aspect is really very important – see the earlier article on time to market.

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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