Post-Mountable Alignment Tool
- Post-Mountable Beam Alignment Tool
- Diffusive Surface for Increased Beam Visibility
- Engraved Scale on Front Surface
Engraved with 1 mm Graduations
The Beam is Visible on the Surface of the Diffusive Alignment Tool
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The AT1(/M) has an engraved scale for observing beam height, while still allowing scattered light to pass through.
- Diffusive Surface Allows the Beam to be Visible on the Surface of the Tool
- 8-32 (M4) Threaded Metal Insert for Post Mounting
- Engraved Crosshair with 1 mm Scale on Front Surface
Thorlabs' AT1(/M) Post-Mountable Acrylic Alignment Tool is ideal for observing beam height in an optical system. This 9.6 mm (0.38") thick diffusive acrylic alignment tool is 3 cm x 3 cm (1.8" x 1.8"), and the surface is laser engraved with a scale of 1 mm (0.04") graduations. The AT1(/M) is equipped with an 8-32 (M4) tapped metal insert for post mounting; this feature allows it to be easily integrated into optomechanical setups. This alignment tool allows the user to observe the laser spot on the front surface, after which it is scattered diffusely (see the image to the right).
Note: This tool should not be used as a beam block or as any type of laser safety device. It also should not be used with high power lasers. Its acrylic construction results in a low damage threshold and its diffusive surface causes increased scattering of incident light.
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The AT1 and AT1/M have different colored threaded inserts for easier identification.
The AT1/M (left) has a brass insert and the AT1 (right) has a stainless steel insert.
Insights into Aligning a Laser Beam
When installing a laser in an optical setup, it is good practice to start by leveling and orienting its beam so that it travels along a well-defined path. When the beam is prepared this way, not only is it easier to then divert the beam and route it through the optical elements in the system, but the results provided by tuning the system's alignment are more predictable and repeatable. The following sections describe how to:
- Level and Align the Laser Beam's Pointing Angle
- Divert the Beam and Align it to Follow a Desired Path
Click here for more Insights about lab practices and equipment.
Level and Align the Laser Beam's Pointing Angle
0:00 - Introduction
1:25 - Level and Align the Laser Beam's Pointing Angle
4:09 - Divert the Beam and Align it to Follow a Desired Path
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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.
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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.
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, and when aligning with respect to a particular direction in that plane, such as along a line of tapped holes in the table.
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 the video 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, which is detailed in the section. 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 the video, 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.
Divert the Beam and Align it to Follow a Desired 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 the video above, 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 3: 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 5: The adjusters on the second kinematic mirror are used to align the beam on the second iris.
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Figure 4: The adjusters on the first kinematic mirror mount are tuned to position the laser spot on the aperture of the first iris.
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 the video 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 3). 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
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 4). 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 5). 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, as shown in the video. 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.