Laser Diode Driver Basics: What You Need To Know

Laser Diode Driver Basics: What You Need To Know

Lasers are all around us, ranging from hand-held pointers to space-based lasers mapping our planet to essential tools used in a dermatologist’s office to remove a melanoma from a patient’s skin. In order to function properly, a laser needs a diode driver. Not sure what this is? This article will go over the laser diode driver basics to cover what you need to know about using and purchasing this instrument.

What Is a Laser Driver?

A laser diode driver is a key component of laser technology since it supplies the power that lights up your laser diode. This important part of your laser system dictates the accuracy, control, and performance of your laser and the right one for your laser often depends on the type of laser you have. In addition, the laser driver is the protector of your laser diode, limiting the current and voltage to safe levels. These limits may be the difference between a working laser and a dead laser.

Why Limits Matter

Lasers use current to function. Too much current can damage or even destroy your laser. Overworking anything, be it a piece of technology or a person, usually leads to a lower quality of work. A hardware current limit responds fast to ensure your laser does not get overworked.

Making your laser work outside of its voltage limits can also be detrimental, but you can prevent this with a laser diode driver from Arroyo Instruments. If the voltage level goes beyond the system’s limits, our driver will automatically shut down to prevent damage. Keep in mind that some laser drivers do not include this feature, so make sure you shop for one that does. Without proper limits, you could easily overwhelm your laser.

Prioritize Safety

In addition to protecting the lasers, you should also take precautions to protect yourself. Many lasers can damage your eyes or skin if they come into contact with it. Even a simple laser pointer could impair your vision if you shine it in your eye. Your laser driver should include a hardware interlock that can instantly shutdown your lasers in the event of a safety fault, such as a protective cover being removed.

Are There Different Types of Laser Drivers?

Different lasers drivers can be designed to meet specific application requirements, such as CW or QCW operation, pulse, analog modulation, power mode control, and so on. The ideal one depends on the type of laser you have and how you plan to use it, so check to see what the manufacturer recommends. Luckily, some drivers are nearly universal, and you can usually find out what type of driver you’ll need by consulting the owner’s manual.

How Type Impacts Price

The price of the diode driver often depends on the type you purchase: more features, better performance, higher resolution, and so on all tend to influence price. Drivers for commodity lasers, such as those used in DVD players and barcode scanners, tend to sell at a lower price. However, higher-end drivers required in a lab are usually more expensive.

Who Uses Laser Drivers?

We use lasers nearly every day, often in ways we don’t even realize (did you know your Apple AirPods have lasers in them?). Each of these requires a different type of driver to keep the technology working properly. A CD player doesn’t need the same laser diode as a laser cutter used in the automotive industry, but both rely on this technology.

Lasers and Science

The scientific field has various uses for lasers. In 2021, NASA launched the Laser Communications Rely Demonstration, which allows them to test the creation of a planetary internet (Netflix on Mars?). This is vital to making discoveries in space, as it is the line of communication between the robots we have in space and scientists on Earth.

Other scientific fields like the medical industry also have many uses for laser technology, and a quality driver becomes all the more important here. Surgeons can use lasers to perform surgery, so they don’t have to rely on other cutting tools. The improved accuracy benefits both the doctor and the patient. With a laser driver, it’s easier to ensure things remain accurate. Interestingly, other medical fields like ophthalmology and dentistry also regularly use lasers.

Tips for Buying Laser Drivers

Understanding laser diode driver basics is one thing but buying the right laser driver is another. Let’s dig deeper into the subject to further discuss what you need to know about this instrument for your laser.

Buying the right laser driver means closely evaluating a few areas to ensure you make the right purchase. First, you need a driver that’s compatible with your laser. In addition to this, search for a laser that’s easy to control and puts out little noise.

Key Features of a Laser Driver

As you shop around, there are a few key components to look for laser drivers. These vital areas include:

  • Accurate current control
  • Current and voltage limits
  • Low noise
  • Various operating modes
  • Photodiode feedback signal

Each of these items serves a different purpose for the system, but the commonality is that they improve the way your laser works and help to ensure you can use the system for years to come. As you shop for a laser driver, take time to look deeper into each area so you buy the best laser driver.

An Example: Why Low Noise Matters

Lasers are very high bandwidth devices, so any noise generated by the laser driver gets copied into the laser output. Some applications, such as spectroscopy, require very low optical noise. By shopping for a driver that puts out little noise, you’ll ensure that your laser driver works for the broadest range of applications.

Buy What’s Compatible With Your Laser

As you shop for your laser driver, the most crucial element is ensuring it meets the current and voltage requirements of your laser system before making your purchase. Further, evaluate what the manufacturer recommends for features such as modulation, pulse operation, and any safety or protection elements the laser diode might support and confirm your laser driver includes those.

Shop at Arroyo Instruments

At Arroyo Instruments, we design and sell the vital components for your laser, including temperature controllers, mounts, and drivers. Our laser drivers are incredibly accurate, support multiple operating modes, and include the safety features you need to protect you and your laser. We lead the industry with incredible products that are built to last.

Various industries rely on laser technology, which means you need the ideal setup to use this instrument. Keep things moving smoothly in your lab with the right diver to improve your laser’s performance.

Laser Diode Driver Basics: What You Need To Know