Laser materials processing is currently dominated by CO2, Nd-YAG and Excimer lasers. Continuous advances in semiconductor laser technology over the last decade have increased the average power output of the devices annualy by two fold, resulting in the commercial availability of the diode lasers today with delivery output powers in excess of 60W in CW mode and 5kW in qasi-CW mode. The advantages of compactness, high reliability, high efficiency and potential low cost, due to the mass production capability of the diode laser, will inextricably shape its future in the field of materials processing. This papers reports on work exploring the feasibility of a range of materials processing applications using a Diomed 60W diode laser, transmitted through a 600m diameter optical fibre and coupled to a 3 axis CNC workstation. The applications studied include; marking and engraving natural stones (marble and granite), marking ceramic tiles, glazing and sealing tile grouts, marking and cutting glass, marking wood, welding metal wire and transformation hardening of tool steels. The study shows that even at the present limited power level of diode laser, many materials processing applications can be accomplished with satisfactory results. Through the study an initial understanding of interaction of diode laser beam with various materials has been gained. Also, within the paper basic beam characteristics, the state of the art of high power diode laser technology and current materials processing applications are also reviewed
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