Recent improvements in design have made it possible to build Nd:YAG lasers with both high pulse energy and high beam quality. These lasers are particularly suited for percussion drilling of holes of as much as 1-mm diameter thick (a few millimeters) metal parts. An example application is the production of cooling holes in aeroengine components for which 1-ms duration, 30-J energy laser pulses produce holes of sufficient quality much more efficiently than with a laser trepanning process. Fiber optic delivery of the laser beam would be advantageous, particularly when one is processing complex three-dimensional structures. However, lasers for percussion drilling are available only with conventional bulk-optic beam delivery because of laser-induced damage problems with the small-diameter (approximately 200–400-µm) fibers that would be required for preserving necessary beam quality. We report measurements of beam degradation in step-index optical fibers with an input beam quality corresponding to an M2 of 22. We then show that the laser-induced damage threshold of 400-µm core-diameter optical fibers can be increased significantly by a CO2 laser treatment step following the mechanical polishing routine. This increase in laser-induced damage threshold is sufficient to propagate 25-J, 1-ms laser pulses with a 400-µm core-diameter optical fiber and an output M2 of 31.
© 2000 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article