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Optical beam shapers are a special class of optic that changes the intensity profile of a beam.  The most common type optical beam shapers are often called Gaussian to Top Hat optical beam shapers because they change the Gaussian intensity profile of a laser beam to a top hat profile.  

Here's what this means.  Many lasers have Gaussian intensity profiles, meaning that if you measured the beam intensity at the center of the beam it would be more intense (hotter) than the intensity around the perimeter of the spot created by the beam.  The intensity of this kind of beam has a bell curve (Gaussian) pattern.  Gaussian to Top Hat optical beam shapers take some of this intensity from the center of the beam and spread it towards the outer edges so that the beam intensity is fairly uniform no matter how far you are away from the center of the beam.  

Optical beam shapers can be either refractive optics or diffractive optics.  Refractive optical beam shapers usually entail a system where a microlens array is used to make many little "beamlets" from a single beam diameter.  The beamlets then enter a focusing lens which takes all of these beamlets and focuses them down to a spot, in other words the focusing lens superimposes all of the beamlets over each other at the focal plane of the lens.  By doing this, the original beam is what is called homogenized at the focal plane of the focusing lens and the intensity of the new spot created is uniform so that the whole system works very well as an optical beam shaper.  

Optical beam shapers can also be diffractive optics.  Diffractive optical beam shapers work by spreading out the intensity of the beam by taking some of the energy from the center and redirecting it towards the outer edges of the beam.  As in the case of refractive optical beam shapers, there is a very definite distance away from the optical beam shapers where the intensity profile is most uniform and the further you get from this plane the less uniform the intensity profile becomes.  

Optical beam shapers can be made from all kinds of materials but the most common type is glass.   This is because most of the applications involving optical beam shapers are using fairly high energies and glass is the least expensive material that can handle the power required.  

So, why would you use optical beam shapers?  One of the most common uses for optical beam shapers is to burn holes in various materials.  The output of a laser is stable, so if the center of the beam burns faster than the edges, then you have to wait for the edges to burn through for the hole to be completely formed.  If you can use optical beam shapers to provide uniform energy throughout the diameter of the beam, then the center of the hole burns a bit slower but the edges burn a bit faster.  This results in the entire hole burning through in a shorter time so optical beam shapers reduce your burning time and your costs.  

As you can see, optical beam shapers are an important tool in the optical designer's arsenal and, with multiple patents in this field, Nalux is ready to put it's expertise to work on your next project that requires optical beam shapers.  

Optical Beam Shapers