Diode lasers have become very popular over the past years and it is understandable why. They are affordable, easy to use and quite low in maintenance. But, is there more to the cost calculation than what meets the eye?
Diode laser modules have made huge stripes in recent years and the stability and life expectancy of a diode has improved greatly. That said, diodes still have a limited life expectancy.
Although you nowadays find more manufacturers telling potential customers that their diodes can last for twenty million pulses, it is still difficult to find one willing to put a guarantee on paper for more than fifteen million pulses.
Fifteen million pulses are still a lot, and should last more than the machine’s lifetime. Is it not? On average, it seems that fifteen million pulses will last you about 6 to 7 years in practice. In this scenario we refer to a single wavelength handpiece and not a triple wavelength handpiece.
Keep in mind that a manufacturer can only optimize the handpiece for one type of diode module (one wavelength) at a time and adding more wavelengths to the handpiece will lead to a reduction of the expected lifetime of the handpiece.
This brings us to the question; what is the cost of a new handpiece? It greatly varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
In general, you can look at 30% to 40% of the cost of the machine to replace the handpiece. A triple wavelength laser can push this up significantly over the total lifetime of the machine, because of the reduced optimization for the diodes that is possible.
The good news is, that it is presently a great time to negotiate if you’re looking at buying equipment. We recommend that you try to negotiate for the inclusion of a second handpiece with the purchase of a machine.
Does this make the total cost of owning a diode laser more than that of owning a solid state or other type of laser? No. You will most probably incur costs to replace the laser medium at some stage during the laser’s lifetime. But the ownership cost of a diode laser is not per se that much lower than another type of laser, as some marketing brochures will like it for us to believe.
As with everything you do have some benefits as well as drawbacks and it is not different with diode lasers. A great benefit of a diode laser is that you will never have the risk of a damaged fibre, since the diodes are in the handpiece. The drawback to that is that you will have a bulky and heavy handpiece to work with.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to compare apples with apples. If you compare a diode laser with a Nd:YAG solid state laser, comparing the wavelength and the output energy directly make no sense.
You need to compare the machines´ ability to provide the same results, operational difficulty or ease, possible treatment types, durability of the technology and total cost of ownership.