HOW MUCH DO LASER DIODES COST?
Learn how wavelength, power, package & cavity type determine the cost of a laser diode
Semiconductor laser diodes range widely in price based on a few key parameters. The wavelength, power, spectral qualities, package type, cavity type and quantity will all have an effect on the price. You can buy a laser diode for less than a dollar. But the price can also be in the tens of thousands of dollars just by changing several paramaters. This summary is to help you better understand how your application requirements may affect the overall price.
How does the wavelength affect the price of a laser diode?
Wavelengths that fall into the category of high volume consumer applications such as consumer electronics or telecommunications applications will be significantly less expense than devices that don't reap the benefites of high volume economies of scale. Wavelengths for consumer electronics include red laser diodes in the 630nm to 670nm range that are used in optical mice, levelers or for laser pointers. Another high volume market is telecommunications lasers including near IR pump lasers for amplifiers and 113XXnm ~ 15XXnm for communications signals. The graph below should give you a basic understanding of popular wavelengths and what the cost will be of the laser diode.
Price Range: A Graph of Laser Diode Price Ranges by Wavelength
Why such a large price range at 405nm? While low cost 405nm blue laser diodes are available that are manufactured for high volume applications, there are many specialty narrow linewidth and/or single mode 375nm ~ 488nm lasers that are used in biomedical imaging and flourescence applications. The spectral properties of these devices command a very high price. The price ranges presented above also take into consideration the output power. As a rule of thumb the higher the output power, the higher the price. But this rule does not always apply when you are shopping for different package styles, single transverse mode or other specific spectral requirements.
How do the spectral properties affect the price?
Not sure what we mean by the term spectral or how a laser diode works; see this article titled An Introduction to Laser Diodes. Spectral line width is sometimes specified in frequency, and sometimes in nanometers. But not all manufacturers will specify this and it is only typically found on data sheets for DFB laser diodes, DBR's, ECL's, pumps and more narrow linewidth devices.
Fabry-Perot Laser Diodes:
– $ – The most basic laser diode cavity design and the most affordable technology. Basically the gain medium consists of resonator region bound by two parallel partially reflecting mirrors. Some of the light created in this resonator will be reflected back to the opposite mirror. This will happen until a standard wave is created in the cavity and coherent light is emitted out of the cavity. The optical spectrum doesn’t contain one discrete wavelength but features multiple peaks that are close together or one large wide peak.
Fabry-Perot laser diode spectrum
DFB, DBR and ECL Single Frequency Laser Diodes:
– $$$$ – These are more expensive (often 3+ times) than basic Fabry-Perot devices. They feature a special structure (grating) in the semiconductor material. A diffraction grating is an optical component with a structure that splits and diffracts light into several beams traveling in different directions. You can learn more about diffraction gratings from University of New South Wales discussion on Diffraction gratings and spectroscopy. This design forces a discrete wavelength to be formed in the laser cavity which can be observed in the spectrum. This single peak is typical of DFB / DBR lasers and the wavelength can be more easily tuned to a specific frequency. The spectral bandwidth is typically around 2 MHz for most wavelengths in the 1400nm to 1600nm range. Shop for DFB lasers »
1550nm DFB laser diode spectrum
Narrow Spectral Linewidth Laser Diodes:
– $$$$$ – If you are searching for a 100 to 500 kHz bandwidth 1550nm laser diode, or you want a single mode narrow line width 405nm laser diode, the price will typically be substantially more expensive than a standard Fabry-Perot or even a DFB/DBR. In some cases, these narrow line width lasers will have a more sophisticated grating in the laser cavity or an external cavity. An external cavity laser still uses a laser diode but in this design the grating that is used in selecting the wavelength is external to the laser chip. This design can produce a more narrow linewidth than a standard DFB.
external cavity laser design
How does the package type affect price?
Below is a simplification of the most common package types. There are many variations and not all suppliers provide the various packages. Unless you are buying in large quantities (100's – 1000's), most manufacturers will only have their one or two standard packages to choose from. The most common packages for laboratory/R&D use will be TO-can for low power free space applications and butterfly for fiber coupled low power applications. High power is a mix of fiber coupled multimode modules and various copper mount headers.
Bare Laser Diode Chips and COC Devices ($10~$500):
Bare diode laser chip
A bare laser diode chip is simply a laser diode chip on a substrate ie aluminum nitride (AlN). This is the most basic commercially available laser form. However, it isn’t typically available to a single unit buyer since this is usually designed for volume OEM customers (i.e. someone purchasing 1000's and integrating into other systems). Also this package is difficult to use in the lab as it is hard to make electrical connections to the package and heat sinking is tricky.
Open Heat Sink Laser Diodes (Range is approximately $50 ~ $1,000):
open heat sink laser diode
In an open heat sink type package, the laser chip(s) has been mounted onto a metal block, usually copper, for it’s heat conducting properties. This is a larger package than the bare chip. But in this case the laser is still exposed to the atmosphere so care must be taken to not operate in an overly humid environment to avoid condensation damaging the laser chip. The most common open heat sinks are C-Mounts and CS / CCP packages bars. C-Mounts are typically used for a single laser chip with output powers up to 10 watts. CS / CCP bars contain multiple single laser chips that haven’t been singulated (cut into individual chip-on-substate devices). Bare are used for higher power lasers up to 100+ watts.
TO-Can Packaged (Price range varies drastically with spectral quality and wavelength: can be from $15 ~ $6,500):
TO-can packaged laser diodes
This is the most common low-cost laser diode package. Typically in a 5.6mm or 9mm diameter package size. The chip is integrated and hermetically sealed into this package and electrical connections are easily made from the leads on the bottom of the package. Most TO-cans feature an integrated photodiode which measures the optical power from the back facet of the laser diode for constant optical power mode or for monitoring the output power. Some TO-Cans feature a fiber output but they are typically a free space output. In addition some larger TO-cans feature an integrated TEC and thermistor for constant temperature control; however this increases the price.
Butterfly Packaged Laser Diodes (Range is approximately $600 ~ $4,500):
butterfly packaged laser diode
Butterfly packaged laser diodes are fiber coupled packages which are very common for spectroscopy, pumping and telecommunications applications. Besides the laser diode chip, the butterfly package also incorporates a photodiode, TEC and thermistor for constant optical power operation and stable temperature control. Fiber output is most common but there are some manufacturers who makes this a free space laser. Electrical connections can easily be made via common sockets and there are many mounting options available. The butterfly package is common in the 1550nm wavelength range »
HIGH POWER LASER DIODE PRICES:
Because there is not much price information for high power laser diodes available online, it can be quite difficult to get a budgetary idea of how much a particular type of device might cost. In order to help, we put together a short list to help you at least figure out how much a “class” of laser diode might cost. This list is a rough guide of pricing by package style and output power for 808, 915, 940, 980nm devices. Please note that as the output power gets higher, the price delta from manufacturer to manufacturer tends to increase greatly. It’s common to get price differences of well over 50% depending on the manufacturer.
Many manufacturers offer two different fiber coupled package types. For lack of industry accepted specific terms, we will refer to one as a “basic” fiber coupled module and the second as an “advanced” fiber coupled module. The basic fiber coupled module is typically a multi-single emitter device (see section above) with a fixed fiber on the package and no connector. It’s intended more for volume OEM customers that will integrate the laser into their system:
The second package type is an “advanced” module. The advanced module is in a larger footprint package that includes options such as integrated cooling, a pilot laser and a monitor photodiode as well as other available features. The advanced module can house a fiber coupled bar (see section above) or can be a multi-single chip emitter device. It’s intended more for low volume customers who need the additional module features for their applications:
Please note that unlike most low power laser diodes, prices for comparable high power devices will vary a lot (sometimes by a factor of 2 or more) by manufacturer. This is why the range of prices shown below is large.5W (CW) FIBER COUPLED PACKAGES
5 Watt "Basic" Fiber Coupled Module: - $250 to $500 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / fixed fiber, no connector - no cooler, no pilot laser or PD
5 Watt “Advanced” Fiber Coupled Module: - $1,000 to $1,500 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / detachable fiber - integrated cooler, pilot laser, & monitor PD
10 Watt "Basic" Fiber Coupled Module: - $350 to $600 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / fixed fiber, no connector - no cooler, no pilot laser or PD
10 Watt “Advanced” Fiber Coupled Module: - $1,500 to $2,000 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / detachable fiber - integrated cooler, pilot laser, & monitor PD
50 Watt "Basic" Fiber Coupled Module: - $1,200 to $1,800 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / fixed fiber, no connector - no cooler, no pilot laser or PD
50 Watt “Advanced” Fiber Coupled Module: - $2,000 to $3,000 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / detachable fiber - integrated cooler, pilot laser, & monitor PD
80 Watt Bar / Array: - $600 to $800 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / CCS/CP copper bar mount - no cooler, no optics
100 Watt "Basic" Fiber Coupled Module: - $2,000 to $3,000 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / fixed fiber, no connector - no cooler, no pilot laser or PD
100 Watt “Advanced” Fiber Coupled Module: - $4500 to $6,000 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / detachable fiber - integrated cooler, pilot laser, & monitor PD
200 Watt "Basic" Fiber Coupled Module: - $2,500 to $3,500 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / fixed fiber, no connector - no cooler, no pilot laser or PD
200 Watt “Advanced” Fiber Coupled Module: - $10,000 to $15,000 - 808, 915, 940, 980nm / detachable fiber - integrated cooler, pilot laser, & monitor PD
How does quantity affect price?
For high volume applications like consumer electronics, telecommunications, or fiber laser pumps it will take buying 100s or 1000s to significantly move the cost. So if you need one or two lasers at 915nm and 10 Watts the price will most likely be the same if you buy only two. At specialty wavelengths used in gas sensing you can see discounts of 20%-25% just for ordering two lasers. As a general rule the lasers that are manufacturered in high volumes will require larger quantity purchases to receive any discounts.
How to narrow in on options:
This is a general overview and should give you guidance for your project. If price is most important try to select a wavelength from a high volume application with a common package. As with all purchasing decisions, the more flexible you can be on your specifications and target price the more likely you can find the perfect laser diode for your application.