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Q&A with IPG Photonics’ Managing Director David Goodwin

Tue, 09 February, 2021

IPG Photonics are a leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance fibre lasers and amplifiers for a variety of applications across different markets.

They became Industrial Members of TWI in January, so we took some time to speak with the managing director of IPG Photonics UK, David Goodwin to find out more about their work and how TWI membership will help them achieve their goals.

Can you start by letting our readers know a little bit more about the work of IPG Photonics?

IPG Photonics Corporation (“IPG”) is the leader in high-power fibre lasers and amplifiers used primarily in materials processing and other diverse applications. The company’s mission is to make its fibre laser technology the tool of choice in mass production. IPG accomplishes this mission by delivering superior performance, reliability and usability at a lower total cost of ownership compared with other types of lasers and non-laser tools, allowing end users to increase productivity and decrease costs. IPG is headquartered in Oxford, Massachusetts, and has more than 25 facilities worldwide.

Your technologies are being used across a range of industries and displacing traditional solutions, why do you think this is?

The extraordinary development of fibre lasers at IPG over the past 10 years has contributed to an increase in the market share of fibre lasers in the overall laser market, within which IPG has market leadership. During this period, R&D focus was less on improving beam quality or increasing laser power but, rather, the development focus was on increasing wall-plug efficiency to over 50% for IPG Ytterbium fibre lasers. The reduction and optimisation of individual components was key to develop fibre lasers, which are now much more compact and cost effective to produce.

Speaking on your technologies, what new tech are you working on at the moment?

10 years ago a 1kW IPG fibre laser was available in a 4U 19“ rack. Today, IPG supplies 4kW lasers in the same housing. The power/volume has increased by a factor of four. This development will continue and will lead to more compact fibre lasers.

The YLR-U Series incorporates the latest advancements in IPG’s world-leading industrial pump diode packaging technology, in combination with the performance of unique fibre design. The 2kW IPG fibre laser is now available in a 2U 19“ rack. We are working on scaling this laser class to higher powers. In the future, 6kW average power will be available in a 4U 19“ rack housing.

Average power for IPG nanosecond pulsed fibre lasers increased in the same decade from 200Watt to 3kW. The current development will lead to 5kW and more, to increase market share in the growing laser cleaning market. Ultra short-pulsed fibre lasers with a few watts in 2010 are now available with more than 100 watts. With the development of new fibre technology, higher peak power and average powers became available. Today, Pico second and Femto second lasers with powers up to 100 watts are commercially available. The development of fibre lasers with shorter wavelengths with today's green or UV lasers have also reached power levels of several-hundred watts.

Specific products gaining real momentum in the UK include IPG’s new range of adjustable mode beam (AMB) lasers. These have the broadest range of beam profile tunability and virtually eliminate welding spatter, which is particularly desirable in e-Mobility and automotive applications, where dissimilar material welding is common. IPG have just launched a new handheld welder to the market called ‘Lightweld,’ which is due for UK release in 2021. ‘Lightweld’ will introduce many non-laser users to the world of fibre lasers.

There is a lot of development going on with the electrification of vehicles, how does IPG Photonics play into this area of development?

IPG’s equipment is enabling the UK with its transition to electric vehicle (EV) volume manufacturing. This activity represents a significant proportion of IPG UK’s current efforts. Substantial equipment deliveries are taking place again this year, including laser sources and beam delivery equipment, as well as IPG’s patented process monitoring technology (LDD) which has become a ‘must have’ technology for e-Mobility. IPG also have a range of automation solutions in their portfolio for battery module manufacturing, providing customers with complete solutions, should they require.

We also understand that you are involved in nuclear decommissioning; can you tell us more about this?

IPG provide a range of equipment to the nuclear sector, mostly through specialist system integrators. The power scalability and beam quality of IPG sources are key factors in this market. A growing range of high-power cutting and welding heads allow IPG to provide plug and play equipment sets to integrators. IPG’s world leading reliability is key in sectors such as nuclear.

Finally, can you tell us what drew you to becoming an Industrial Member of TWI and what value you see in membership?

IPG are delighted to have become Members of TWI, who are recognised for their world-class welding, joining and allied technologies. TWI have excellent facilities and extremely competent people and, with IPG’s expertise in laser materials processing, will help drive UK industry forward. IPG have invested heavily into the UK, with a new £15m UK Centre of Excellence at Ansty Park, Coventry, providing 5,500 sq/metres of high-tech space, allowing IPG to deliver standard and customised robotic systems locally to UK customers. IPG are excited about the future and their association with TWI is a significant step forward in this journey.

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