Using Adjusters on the Kinematic Mount to Level and Orient a Laser Beam

Using Adjusters on the Kinematic Mount to Level and Orient a Laser Beam

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What is a procedure for correcting a laser's beam pointing angle?

Pitch (tip) and yaw (tilt) adjustments provided by a kinematic mount can be used to make fine corrections to a laser beam's angular orientation or pointing angle. This angular tuning capability is convenient when aligning a collimated laser beam to be level with respect to a reference plane, such as the surface of an optical table, as well as with respect to a particular direction in that plane, such as along a line of tapped holes in the table.

Using a ruler to align a beam with respect to a row of tapped holes in an optical table.
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Figure 2: The beam can be aligned to travel parallel to a line of tapped holes in the optical table. The yaw adjustment on the kinematic mount adjusts the beam angle, so that the beam remains incident on the ruler's vertical reference line as the ruler slides along the line of tapped holes.

Leveling a laser beam with respect to an optical table.
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Figure 1: Leveling the beam path with respect to the surface of an optical table requires using the pitch adjustment on the kinematic laser mount (Figure 2). The beam is parallel to the table's surface when measurements of the beam height near to (left) and far from (right) the laser's front face are equal.

Video Clip 1: The pointing angle of a laser beam from a PL202 collimated laser package was corrected using the pitch (tip) and yaw (tilt) adjusters on the laser's KM100 kinematic mount, and horizontal and vertical features on a BHM1 ruler. The resulting beam travels parallel to the optical table's surface, along a line of tapped holes.

Before Using the Mount's Adjusters
First, rotate each adjuster on the kinematic mount to the middle of its travel range. This reduces the risk of running out of adjustment range, and the positioning stability is frequently better when at the center of an adjuster's travel range.

Then, make coarse corrections to the laser's height, position, and orientation. This can be done by adjusting the optomechanical components, such as a post and post holder, supporting the laser. Ensure all locking screws are tightened after the adjustments are complete.

Level the Beam Parallel to the Table's Surface
Leveling the laser beam is an iterative process that requires an alignment tool and the fine control provided by the mount's pitch adjuster.

Begin each iteration by measuring the height of the beam close to and far from the laser (Figure 1). A larger distance between the two measurements increases accuracy. If the beam height at the two locations differs, place the ruler in the more distant position. Adjust the pitch on the kinematic mount until the beam height at that location matches the height measured close to the laser. Iterate until the beam height at both positions is the same.

More than one iteration is necessary, because adjusting the pitch of the laser mount adjusts the height of the laser emitter. In Video Clip 1 for example, the beam height close to the laser was initially 82 mm, but it increased to 83 mm after the pitch was adjusted during the first iteration. 

If the leveled beam is at an inconvenient height, the optomechanical components supporting the laser can be adjusted to change its height. Alternatively, two steering mirrors can be placed after the laser and aligned using a different procedure. Steering mirrors are particularly useful for adjusting beam height and orientation of a fixed laser.

Orient the Beam Along a Row of Tapped Holes
Aligning the beam parallel to a row of tapped holes in the table is another iterative process, which requires an alignment tool and tuning of the mount's yaw adjuster.

The alignment tool is needed to translate the reference line provided by the tapped holes into the plane of the laser beam. The ruler can serve as this tool, when an edge on the ruler's base is aligned with the edges of the tapped holes that define the line (Figure 2).

The relative position of the beam with respect to the reference line on the table can be evaluated by judging the distance between the laser spot and vertical reference feature on the ruler. Vertical features on this ruler include its edges, as well as the columns formed by different-length rulings. If these features are not sufficient and rulings are required, a horizontally oriented ruler can be attached using a BHMA1 mounting bracket.

In Video Clip 1, when the ruler was aligned to the tapped holes and positioned close to the laser, the beam's edge and the ends of the 1 mm rulings coincided. When the ruler was moved to a farther point on the reference line, the beam's position on the ruler was horizontally shifted. With the ruler at that distant position, the yaw adjustment on the mount was tuned until the beam's edge again coincided with the 1 mm rulings. The ruler was then moved closer to the laser to observe the effect of adjusting the mount on the beam's position. This was iterated as necessary.

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Date of Last Edit: Oct. 12, 2020

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