Coherent brings together application engineering expertise with the cumulative experience of over 50 years to offer customised laser solutions. A focus on applications has made Coherent a leader in its industry and continues to drive success for the company and its customers.
Providing a system – and more
Coherent’s approach to developing solutions for customers in the medical device sector starts in the applications lab. First, generic samples will demonstrate a certain capability, whether cutting, welding or marking. “Each customer is individual and has specific needs,” explains Roland Woelzlein, product line manager. The aim is to finetune the laser solution to meet those needs. “Usually when we do samples, we give the customer different settings,” Woelzlein adds. “They can decide what is best for their application.” For example, this might mean identifying the ideal balance between product quality and cycle length.
To give the customer further confidence that the solution is right for their manufacturing process, Coherent offers factory acceptance testing (FAT) and site acceptance testing (SAT). “This is where we take the achieved results from the applications lab and repeat it on the customer’s machine,” Woelzlein explains.
This approach addresses the system as a whole, something which is especially important in the medical device sector. “For example, in the automotive industry, it is good enough to sell a laser and maybe some software and optics, and then a machine integrator or the customer themselves takes care of integrating this laser source into his manufacturing line,” says Woelzlein. For medical device customers, Coherent provides a full system in the form of a turnkey solution, meaning no integration is required.
“The customer also gets much more than the system,” Woelzlein goes on. The Coherent labs offer training options, application knowhow, starting permits and installation services. Customers can also choose to add preventative maintenance. “This is what we offer as a package,” says Woelzlein.
“What makes us unique is we have this global footprint, so we have applications lab sites and service sites globally,” Woelzlein emphasises. “Recently we sold one system to Thailand where the mother company is sitting in Japan. When they go with us it usually doesn’t matter where they want to go with their production – usually we are already there so we can support them globally”.
The product of experience
The primary benefit for the customer is they can understand exactly how the system will work for their specific products and applications before investing in it.
By understanding their practical applications, Coherent can also adapt to customers with varied requirements. For example, contract manufacturers require more flexibility from their laser solutions than larger-volume manufacturers do. This might involve being able to cut both smaller and bigger tubes, or both tubes and flat surfaces.
“A lot of this comes with experience,” Woelzlein explains. “With each application and with each customer we have in the lab, we learn and improve our system.” Also being equipped with highly trained applications engineers operating out of many local applications labs means that the company can provide customers with high-quality end results quickly.
The ability to respond to customer needs has made Coherent a leader in its field. “The StarCut tube is a brilliant example of how this approach really helped us to become the global market leader in tube cutting,” Woelzlein says. In 1996, customer demand for tube-cutting capabilities led Coherent colleagues to recognise the market’s need for products like stents and endoscopes.
Identifying application trends continues to serve the company well. “There’s growing demand for transcatheter heart valve replacement,” Woelzlein says. This involves cutting tubes of 10-30mm in diameter, compared to 1-2mm for coronary stents. Having seen this trend coming, Coherent is able to respond. Its StarCut tube SL is ideal for cutting the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) scaffolds needed for this procedure. “We look at what might be future trends in the market, and we prepare the machine in advance,” says Woelzlein. “Usually, we are already there because we know where the market is going.” Similar trending applications include laser welding for endoscopes and durable black marking that can resist corrosion, and Coherent products respond to this.
“Looking to the future, process monitoring and process control is the topic we are addressing,” says Woelzlein. This will involve using data and technology like machine learning to optimise customers’ processes. As the range of applications customers are seeking shifts and evolves, Coherent’s offering will keep pace with them.