From vision to innovation
Laserline was founded by Dr. Christoph Ullmann and graduate engineer Volker Krause in 1997. But how did they do it? These two technology pioneers were convinced that it was possible to develop an alternative beam source for industrial laser material processing, based on a laser diode that had been around since 1960 – the diode laser. At the beginning, the project was rarely taken seriously because the single diode seemed much too weak to be an element of the industrial laser. However, Ullmann and Krause stuck to their vision. And within just a few years, they developed an innovative tool that conquered entire industry sectors with respect to fiber laser manufacturers, fiber laser companies and laser equipment manufacturers. Thanks to their inexhaustible, pioneering work, which has received multiple awards, Laserline’s powerful lasers have now been firmly established in many production chains. Laserline is one of the top laser providers if you are searching for industrial laser manufacturers.
25 years of Laserline – a brief profile
What began as a small team at the Koblenz Technology Centre has now become the embodiment of industrial laser technology itself. Since 2002, Laserline has been located at its own approx. 15,000 m² premises in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany, with production in state-of-the-art production plants, thinkers in innovative development laboratories, and eight international subsidiary laser manufacturers in USA, Mexico, Brazil, India, Japan, China, and South Korea, all the while working with distribution partners in Europe (France, Italy, Great Britain) and in the Asia-Pacific region (Singapore, Taiwan, Australia). Today, Laserline has more than 350 employees.
Our recipe for success is a clear philosophy, rooted in sustainable organic growth, that is implemented on a continuous basis in every area. It revolves around three core principles:
Based on tried and tested principles, our current industrial lasers offer a standard power of up to 25 kW and can achieve an extraordinarily high efficiency rate of almost 50%. Meanwhile, in the power class of up to 4 kW, converter lasers with high beam powers of up to 4 mm mrad are available. Combined with consultation, design, individual additional components, as well as a huge portfolio of services, this makes us the world’s leading manufacturer of high-power lasers.
Dr. Christoph Ullmann and Volker Krause founded Laserline GmbH at the Koblenz Technology Centre. These two technology pioneers developed and sold the first direct diode lasers – back then, they looked like a camera from the fifties, with powers of 500, 900, and 2000 W. Laserline and its products were introduced to the general public for the very first time at the LASER World of Photonics expo (Munich, Germany). Laserline’s first industrial application was wire-based laser cladding. As part of this, the Laserline diode laser was integrated into a high-speed milling machine.
At the first “StartUp” competition for new businesses – organized by Sparkassen, McKinsey and STERN magazine – Laserline became the Rhineland-Palatinate state winner and ranked third nationwide. The award was personally handed out by the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Roman Herzog, and was confirmed by a further success in the industry: Laserline’s diode lasers were used in plastic processing for the very first time.
The world’s first multi-laser system for quasi-simultaneous plastic welding was equipped with Laserline’s diode lasers: the laser manufacturer outperformed all its competitors and received the order to deliver a hundred multi diode laser systems. Furthermore, at the LASER World of Photonics expo, Laserline presented the first fiber coupled diode laser with 500 W power and 600 µm optical fiber. Suitable for cutting metal, it tapped into a field of application that was previously considered unattainable for diode laser technology.
The firm's swift growth required an increase in capacity: in the presence of numerous representatives from the local government, the ground-breaking ceremony took place for the new Laserline premises in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany. Product development was also proceeding rapidly: fiber coupled diode lasers were now available with powers of 2000 W (1000 µm fiber) or 4000 W (1500 µm fiber). By connecting 500 W diode lasers with a scanning system, the first DioScan system for quasi-simultaneous plastic welding was created. And the highlight of the year? AUDI was the first automotive manufacturer to use Laserline’s diode lasers for brazing tailgates – a milestone in the industrial applications of this nascent technology.
Laserline said goodbye to the Koblenz Technology Centre and moved into its own premises in Mülheim-Kärlich. Meanwhile, its staff now numbered 35 employees. An operating area of a total of 2,500 m² offered plenty of space for further growth. 200 guests attended the inauguration ceremony on 14 November 2002, and the guest of honor was the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate, Kurt Beck.
The beam quality of fiber coupled diode lasers was optimized: 850 W laser powers were now available via 400 µm optical fiber with a numeric aperture (NA) of 0.2; 4,000 W via 1,000 µm fiber with the same NA. To increase availability, the lasers could now be equipped with an electronic stack management system. The management system recognizes a defect laser stack, turns it off, and automatically calculates the new characteristics of the laser. A teleservice was another new addition: a system failure anywhere in the world can be diagnosed online, with customers receiving support via telephone. Plus, the application range was increased, too: Laserline’s diode lasers could now be used for repair welding in oil production.
Once again, the laser manufacturer managed to increase the power of fiber coupled diode lasers: users could now get their hands on 6,000 W laser powers, via 1,500 µm fiber with a numeric aperture of 0.2.
From this point on, the power of direct Laserline diode lasers was increased to 10,000 W, which was unmatched at this point in time. Furthermore, Laserline was able to significantly improve the beam quality of its fiber coupled diode lasers for the second time within a very short period. Specifically, it now offered laser powers of 400 W via 400 µm fiber, 3,000 W via 600 µm fiber, and 6,000 W via 1,000 µm fiber available with a numeric aperture (NA) of 0.2.
Over the course of its continuously growing international business, Laserline opened its first subsidiary in Silicon Valley, California. Laserline’s diode lasers were used for the tape laying of fiber composites for the first time, in the aviation, aerospace, oil and automotive industries, among others.
By building a new production hall, its premises in Mülheim-Kärlich were expanded to 4,300 m². At LASER 2007 in Munich, Laserline exhibited a fiber coupled diode laser with 4,000 W laser power via 400 µm fiber. Until then, a comparable pairing of beam quality and power was only attainable via lamp-pumped Nd:YAG lasers.
Laserline sold its 1,000th diode laser and brought the world’s first diode laser with a beam quality of a lamp-pumped Nd:YAG laser (30 mm mrad) and laser power of 4,000 W to the market. The third highlight of the year: Laserline was classed by AUDI as a beam source supplier for aluminum welding. Its first field of application was the welding of tailgates for the AUDI Q5.
For the first time, a Laserline diode laser was integrated into a system for sealing narrow surfaces on furniture edgebands. As a result, the furniture industry also became a new area for applications.
Laserline established a quality management system corresponding to DIN EN ISO 9001:2008 across the entire firm and was certified by TÜV Süddeutschland. Its pioneering work in the field of diode laser technology was rewarded by Sparkasse with the regional start-up award in the category of “creative entrepreneurial performance”. Appropriately, at the product site, the next boost in power performance made itself felt: fiber-coupled diode lasers with 15,000 W output power via 1,000 µm fiber became available from the LASER World of Photonics onwards. At the end of the year, three new additional subsidiaries were opened in Asia: Shanghai/China, Seoul/South Korea, and Tokyo/Japan. Meanwhile, over 110 employees were working for Laserline around the globe.
Laserline’s growth showed no sign of slowing down. By constructing a new production hall and a new office building, the total area of its premises in Mülheim-Kärlich was now 7,400 m². In several plants welding tailored blanks, Laserline’s diode lasers successfully replaced the CO2 lasers that were established up to that point. The high efficiency of the diode lasers was a core reason for the customer’s decision.
Laserline’s quick growth was also unmistakable in terms of personnel: by the end of the year, its staff amounted to more than 160 employees. At the LASER World of Photonics, Laserline presented the first diode laser with a beam converter boasting an output power of 4 kW at 8 mm mrad beam quality. Furthermore, Laserline diode lasers with powers of up to 20,000 Watt were now available. On the application side, diode lasers were used in remote welding for the first time. Plus, the new beam converter laser enabled applications with huge working distances.
In April, Laserline opened a new sales department within the premises of the US Fraunhofer Institute in Detroit. The number of employees at its headquarters in Mülheim-Kärlich kept growing, reaching about 200 by October. The maximum power of Laserline diode lasers was able to be doubled within a year to 40,000 W, with a prototype displaying this output power presented at the LASYS in Stuttgart. Furthermore, Laserline also set up its new OTS-5 stainless steel optics. Diode lasers were now used in the additive manufacturing of components: diode laser-based cladding made it possible to produce the desired shapes and structures almost without any material loss, rework or tool wear, in just one single step.
Laserline now had more than 230 employees. In September 2015, a new production hall with a connected development center was opened. At the LASER World of Photonics, Laserline introduced the new product family LDF, now in its 6th generation, to the market. Furthermore, a prototype with 50,000 W output power was presented for the first time.
At the end of the year, a new sales department was opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Globally, Laserline now had more than 260 employees. Brazing with a triple spot module, developed by Laserline, attracted a good deal of attention and was rated as an advanced procedure for brazing hot galvanized sheets in the automobile industry.
The industry laser manufacturer Laserline celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2017. Discover more!
In May, Laserline received the AKL Innovation Award for the multi-spot module, developed previously. In so doing, Laserline put an end to the increased spatter formation which had previously occurred during the brazing of hot-dip galvanized sheet metal. The module combined a homogeneous rectangular spot with two round pre-spots that could be adjusted as required. The “Efficient High-Power Laser Beam Sources (EffiLAS)” program, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), gave rise to a direct blue high-power diode laser as yet another trend-setting development. The availability of the blue high-performance diodes made this possible for the first time. The manufacturer’s growth was not only reflected in a further increase in its workforce, now at 360 employees: its subsidiary in China had also grown and therefore had to move to a new, larger building.
Laserline presented the world’s first blue diode laser, LDMblue, with cw output power of up to 1.5 kW at 450 nm wavelength. The new LDMblue lasers were the first industrial lasers to allow for the controlled heat conduction welding of highly reflexive non-ferrous metals, such as copper or gold. As a result, these lasers offered new and more efficient options, especially at the joining of thin copper bondings as used, for example, in battery technology for electric vehicles. In June 2019, Laserline opened a new subsidiary in Pune, India. With this, it was responding to growth in its business in South Asia. In November 2019, Laserline was honored with the “Supplier of the Year 2019” award from KLA-Tencor. Of more than 100 participants, one of three awards was ceremoniously handed over to Dr. Christoph Ullmann at the supplier conference. With this award, the US specialist for semiconductor inspection technology honored the long-standing successful cooperation in the field of wafer inspection.
The trend towards digitalization has reached the field of industry lasers as well. Laserline reacted early and has engaged itself under the watchword ‘Digital Laser Solutions’ with the development of solutions for the integration of lasers into digital process architectures. With the OPC UA interfaces in our LDF diode lasers, Laserline creates a basis for platform-independent, vertical and horizontal data communication. This supports the integration of lasers, optical fibers and processing optics in a production network and provides more efficiency and overview. A simple retrofit solution is available for existing LDF systems.