Market-leading nanometer-level motion control solutions provider, ALIO Industries, caused some waves at the SPIE Photonics West event held in San Francisco at the beginning of February with a display of innovative and unique products.

ALIO showcased several industry-unique precision positioning products and high throughput scanning solutions for laser micro-processing, this year exhibiting alongside recently launched affiliate company 6D Laser LLC.

ALIO is renowned throughout industry for the development of its patented Hybrid Hexapod® and its True Nano® XY positioning stages.

The Hybrid Hexapod® was developed by ALIO to address the critical weaknesses of conventional legacy hexapod designs, as well as the weaknesses of stacked serial stages, and to achieve nanometer -level accuracy, repeatability, and high-integrity flatness and straightness during motion.  It utilizes a tripod parallel kinematics structure to deliver Z plane and tip/tilt motion, integrated with a monolithic serial kinematic structure for XY motion.  A rotary stage integrated into the top of the tripod (or underneath it depending on application needs) provides 360-degree continuous yaw rotation.  In this hybrid design, individual axes can be customized to provide travel ranges from millimeters to over one meter, while maintaining nanometer-levels of precision. 

At Photonics West, ALIO Industries showed live demonstrations of the world’s first and only Hybrid Hexapod® with +/- 30 degrees tip and tilt travel — the new HH-30 Hybrid Hexapod® — which offers more than an order-of-magnitude better precision than alternative hexapod technologies, more travel range in all degrees-of-freedom (DOF) , and significantly higher velocity. The new HH-30 and the world’s most precise compact 6 DOF positioner, the “Mini” Hybrid Hexapod® were front and center at the show, and ALIO was encouraged to see that attendees were increasingly well-informed and recognized that when looking for repeatable nanometer-level precision, ALIO’s solutions are unique.

ALIO’s True Nano® XY positioning stages exhibit unequalled 6-D Nano Precision®. With nanometer-level straightness and flatness, users can be certain that point precision is True Nano®. ALIO’s XY stage family comes with enclosed- or open-center versions from 50-450 mm travel, and standard axis bi-directional repeatability is less than 40 nanometers with optional 10 nanometers bi-directional repeatability for demanding metrology or manufacturing requirements. ALIO uniquely provides its True Nano® XY Stages with NIST traceable data guarnteeing nano precision, not just the marketing data sheet optimism typical with alternative technologies.

At Photonics West, ALIO showcased its new Asymmetric-SeriesTM True Nano® XY positioning stages which represent another unique offering in the industry. When travel ranges for the X and Y axes are not the same, rather than relying on performance-compromising stacked configurations, ALIO’s space-optimizing Asymmetric-Series stages exhibit the same extremely rigid and stable structures that are at the heart of the company’s popular monolithic XY series.

Perhaps one of the key developments from ALIO at Photonics West were technology solutions for precision laser micro-processing, launched under affiliate company 6-D Laser.

6-D Laser has as its central mission to address the limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by systems integrators. The company tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions provided by ALIO Industries through the Hybrid Hexapod®.

6-D Laser has vertically integrated all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and has done this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications, including Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control.

Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.

At Photonics West 6D Laser demonstrations included its Polygon Scanner System, and its Unlimited Field-of-View (FOV) Micromachining System. In respect of the Polygon Scanner Systems, 6D Laser has partnered with Next Scan Technology to provide fully integrated planar laser processing systems that combine ALIO’s precision motion stages with high-throughput polygon scanners. For its Unlimited FOV Micromachining System 6D Laser has partnered with SCANLAB to provide fully integrated XLSCAN systems that combine ALIO’s precision motion stages with ACS’s motion control systems.

Laser micro processing has driven innovation and manufacturing efficiency in various industry sectors. 6-D Laser’s micro-processing solutions win through as they can make ultra-precise micro features, are agnostic to which material is being processed, and are highly repeatable. As such, they are now seen as the go-to solutions compared with traditional non-laser driven micro-processing technologies in the consumer electronics, semi-conductor, medical device, solar cell, and optical sectors.

6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.

Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (www.6dlaser.com), and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod®, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices.  Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.

The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.

​6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN.  6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”

Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile.  Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns).  Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.

Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”

At Photonics West, 6-D Laser will be demonstrating a large format, 2D unlimited field of view (UFOV) scanning solution and a high-throughput polygon scanning system. Key members of the team would be delighted to discuss the specifics of your particular applications.

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