FCPA lasers have an array of possible applications, and this is especially true in the health and medicine industry.  The high pulse peak intensity and the extremely short pulse duration, while keeping the average power low, enables procedures without thermal damage to biological tissues.  This allows non-thermal processes for a range of medical applications, from high-resolution microscopy to precise surgical operations.  These same laser properties are also beneficial when it comes to manufacturing devices used in the medical field.  A critical requirement for such medical devices is preventing the material properties from being modified during the laser processing.

The unique properties of ultrashort pulse lasers that make them effective for micro-machining are also highly useful for performing complex or delicate surgical procedures. FCPA lasers allow precise removal of tissue with little or no damage to the surrounding areas.  One of the most established uses of femtosecond lasers for tissue modification is LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis). The precision and minimal damage achievable with FCPA lasers are ideal for cutting the delicate transparent cornea of the eye.

Although LASIK has been practiced for many years, the new SMILE procedure has been successfully developed and implemented in the field.  Other types of vision correction, such as cataract surgery, have gained acceptance.  Another possibility for femtosecond lasers, in general, is reducing presbyopia, by softening the lens stiffness that develops with age.

Femtosecond laser micromachining of medical device materials. Left: 1-mm diameter hole in 3-mm diameter, 250-µm thick bioabsorbable tubing. Right: cut pattern in 5-mm diameter, 50-µm thick Nitinol tubing.

With FCPA lasers, it is feasible to avoid modification of device materials, which are of concern when CW or long pulse lasers are used.  UV laser use is of specific concern for organic materials.  Furthermore, thermally-induced change of the surrounding materials of the laser focal spot needs to eliminated, or minimized to as low as possible.  With FCPA lasers, high precision micromachined parts can be made without a large HAZ (heat affected zone) debris field, recast, or burrs.  This is important for manufacturing medical devices without excessive post-processing steps.