Word of the month: Laser

Word of the month is a series in The Hive where we present concepts or technologies that are meaningful to the work we do.

WOM laser

Did you know that the word “laser” is an acronym? It stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. It refers to any device that generates a very particular type of light.

This light, which may or may not be visible, has two special characteristics. Firstly, it is monochromatic because, unlike sunlight, it is only made up of one wavelength. Secondly, the light travels directionally, forming a beam. This allows it to be focused on very small areas and—now this is where it’s useful for us—to reach intensities high enough to cut, weld, or transform various materials.

Discreet, but ubiquitous in our daily lives

There are many types of lasers: gas, solid, liquid, semi-conductor, etc. Their power may vary from a few milliwatts to tens of kilowatts. While lasers often go unnoticed, they are ubiquitous in our daily lives. Their exceptional capabilities have made them essential for many industrial, scientific, and medical applications, as well as in telecommunications.

Lectra understood very early on what lasers could bring to our cutting room offers. We have been marketing laser cutters for more than 40 years. In the early days, we designed and manufactured our own laser sources: lasers using CO2, which worked particularly well with the materials used by our customers. For the past two decades, we have been using Slab technology from our supplier, Rofin.

Essential to Lectra’s entry into the automotive industry

There have been several generations of Lectra laser cutters: they were used to cut patterns for the fashion industry in the 1970s, then technical textiles starting in the 1980s. Also in the 80s, we delivered Citroën’s first laser cutters, used to cut car seat covers, marking our entry into the automotive industry.

In the early 1990s, airbags began to appear in cars sold in Europe, North America, and Japan. Thanks to our experience with laser cutting and our global presence, we were perfectly positioned to respond to this new demand. Today, 90% of airbags worldwide are laser cut and among them, two thirds are cut with a Lectra Focus solution.

Our Focus line quickly became the top laser cutters in the airbag market. Launched in early 2016, FocusQuantum is our third generation of laser cutters dedicated to airbags. With its two powerful laser sources, the FocusQuantum is able to cut single-ply one-piece woven (OPW) fabrics at high speed, as well as thick layers of flat fabrics.