How are two mirrors used to align a laser beam along a different path?
The first steering mirror reflects the beam along a line that crosses the new beam path. A second steering mirror is needed to level the beam and align it along the new path. The procedure of aligning a laser beam with two steering mirrors is sometimes described as walking the beam, and the result can be referred to as a folded beam path. In the example shown in Video Clip 1, two irises are used to align the beam to the new path, which is parallel to the surface of the optical table and follows a row of tapped holes.
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Figure 1: The beam reflected from Mirror 1 will be incident on Mirror 2, if Mirror 1 is rotated around the x- and y-axes by angles θ and ψ, respectively. Both angles affect each coordinate (x2 , y2 , z2 ) of Mirror 2's center. Mirror 1's rotation around the x-axis is limited by the travel range of the mount's pitch (tip) adjuster, which limits Mirror 2's position and height options.
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Figure 3: The adjusters on the second kinematic mirror are used to align the beam on the second iris.
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Figure 2: The adjusters on the first kinematic mirror mount are tuned to position the laser spot on the aperture of the first iris.
Video Clip 1: Two mirrors in KM100 kinematic mounts route the beam from a PL202 collimated laser package along the path defined by the two IDA25 irises. The beam is aligned when halos of laser light surround each iris' aperture and the laser spot is visible on the BHM1 ruler, which was placed behind the second iris to act as a viewing screen.
Setting the Heights of the Mirrors
The center of the first mirror should match the height of the input beam path, since the first mirror diverts the beam from this path and relays it to a point on the second mirror. The center of the second mirror should be set at the height of the new beam path.
The new beam path is defined by the irises, which in Video Clip 1 have matching heights to ensure the path is level with respect to the surface of the table. A ruler or calipers can be used to set the height of the irises in their mounts with modest precision.
When an iris is closed, its aperture may not be perfectly centered. Because of this, switching the side of the iris that faces the beam can cause the position of the aperture to shift. It is good practice to choose one side of the iris to face the beam and then maintain that orientation during setup and use.
Component Placement and Coarse Alignment
Start by rotating the adjusters on both mirrors to the middle of their travel ranges. Place the first mirror in the input beam path, and determine a position for the second mirror in the new beam path (Figure 1). The options are notably restricted by the travel range of the first mirror mount's pitch (tip) actuator, since it limits the mirror's rotation (θ ) around its x-axis. In addition to the pitch, the yaw (tilt) of the first mirror must also be considered when choosing a position (x2 , y2 , z2 ) for the second mirror. Each coordinate of the second mirror's location has a complex dependence on both the pitch and yaw of the first mirror, as does the spacing between the two mirrors. Be sure to place the two mirrors so that neither of the first mirror's adjusters needs to be rotated all the way to either end of its travel range.
After placing the second mirror on the new beam path, position both irises after the second mirror on the desired beam path. Locate the first iris near the second mirror and the second iris as far away as possible.
While maintaining the two mirrors' heights and without touching the yaw adjusters, rotate the first mirror to direct the beam towards the second mirror. Adjust the pitch adjuster on the first mirror to place the laser spot near the center of the second mirror. Then, rotate the second mirror to direct the beam roughly along the new beam path.
First Hit a Point on the Path, then Orient
The first mirror is used to steer the beam to the point on the second mirror that is in line with the new beam path. To do this, tune the first mirror's adjusters while watching the position of the laser spot on the first iris (Figure 2). The first step is complete when the laser spot is centered on the iris' aperture.
The second mirror is used to steer the beam into alignment with the new beam path. Tune the adjusters on the second mirror to move the laser spot over the second iris' aperture (Figure 3). The pitch adjuster levels the beam, and the yaw adjuster shifts it laterally. If the laser spot disappears from the second iris, it is because the laser spot on the second mirror has moved away from the new beam path.
Tune the first mirror's adjusters to reposition the beam on the second mirror so that the laser spot is centered on the first iris' aperture. Resume tuning the adjusters on the second mirror to direct the laser spot over the aperture on the second iris. Iterate until the laser beam passes directly through the center of both irises (Video Clip 1). If any adjuster reaches, or approaches, a limit of its travel range, one or both mirrors should be repositioned and the alignment process repeated.
If a yaw axis adjuster has approached a limit, note the required direction of the reflected beam and then rotate the yaw adjuster to the center of its travel range. Turn the mirror in its mount until the direction of the reflected beam is approximately correct. If the mirror cannot be rotated, reposition one or both mirrors to direct the beam roughly along the desired path. Repeat the alignment procedure to finely tune the beam's orientation.
If a pitch axis adjuster has approached a limit, either increase the two mirrors' separation or reduce the height difference between the new and incident beam paths. Both options will result in the pitch adjuster being positioned closer to the center of its travel range after the alignment procedure is repeated.
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