A look at Laser Materials Processing and its role within the Photonics and Plastic Electronics KTN. By Dr Mike Green, Executive Secretary, AILU
Laser Materials Processing (LMP) is a key technology underlying many of the interests and activities within the scope of the Photonics and Plastic Electronics KTN. Industrial lasers are well established as a non-contact, high-quality, highly flexible manufacturing tool, and within this context, recent developments in industrial laser sources, including high-brightness fibre lasers and ultra-short pulse, high-repetition-rate lasers, are transforming the LMP landscape and opening up new techniques and applications.
This is particularly relevant both to the health of the UK manufacturing industry and to the challenges of the 21st century, from the ever-increasing miniaturisation of components, such as those used in the electronics (microelectro- mechanical systems) and medical (implants) industry, to the improved efficiency of transportation (eg the use of composites for weight (and fuel) reduction, improved fuel injection and engine wear characteristics).
As revealed in a survey of UK research activity in LMP, undertaken by the Photonics KTN in late 2008 (the first survey of its kind in the UK), the academic and industry research community has the skills and infrastructure to exploit the many new LMP opportunities. Nearly 100 academic and 27 industrial research groups were identified as being active in LMP with 16 and 18, respectively, ranked as top level. Almost all now belong to the ?Product and Process Innovation? Special Interest Group set up within the Photonics KTN for the LMP research community.
In July 2009 the UK?s first two-day Industrial Laser Applications Symposium (ILAS) ? supported by the Photonics KTN and the Materials KTN ? attracted over 100 delegates. The challenge for LMP in the UK is historically the underinvestment in UK manufacturing industry. This is borne out by a recent assessment undertaken for the Photonics KTN by the Association of Laser Users (AILU), which benchmarked the UK against Germany (the world leader in the use of lasers in manufacturing) and concluded that the use of lasers in Germany per unit of manufactured output is around five times higher than in the UK.
Through workshops (including the recent ILAS symposium), Special Interest Groups and the Design for Laser Manufacture website (www.designforlasermanufacture.com), the PPE KTN is working to spread the message and encourage networking between the LMP research community and manufacturing industry.
Added the 05 October 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-2