Lasers Conquer Large-Scale Manufacturing

A place for discussions: the sponsers’ exhibition (Source: Fh. ILT)

Visitors to this year’s AKL – International Laser Technology Congress in Aachen, Germany, had the unique chance to see where industrial laser technology stands today and where it will be tomorrow. The congress delivered the full picture of current technologies, from advanced laser sources and new process technologies to a wide range of applications such as additive manufacturing or even quantum sensing. To research such future topics, several projects have been started, and a whole new “I³ – Integrated Interdisciplinary Institute” has been inaugurated.

From May 2 – 4, the laser community convened for the twelfth time at the AKL – International Laser Technology Congress in Aachen. The 661 attendees, representing industrial laser manufacturers and users, met to enjoy a densely packed program with 77 presentations, a festive ceremony for the Innovation Award Laser Technology 2018, and a number of important project kick-offs. Separate events offered insights to laser novices (Laser Technology ABC’s) and business people (Technology Business Day). For even more technical insights and one-on-one exchange, Fraunhofer ILT opened its labs for “Laser Technology Live”, an open-house event with more than one hundred live demonstrations at Europe’s largest laser application center.

At the conference: from record lasers to record cutting machines

The three-day congress started with two special symposia on “Process Control” and “Laser Additive Manufacturing”. In particular, for large-scale manufacturing, process control needs to fulfill several crucial functions. First, there is quality control, which includes several tests of whether parameters such as the dimensions of the workpiece fall within predefined limits. Quality control is performed before, during, and after a process.

More than 660 attendees met at AKL’18 in Aachen, Germany (Source: Fh. ILT)

The “Laser Technology Conference” was divided into three tracks: Laser Material Processing – Macro, and Micro, respectively, and Laser Beam Sources. They all began with the plenary Gerd Herziger Session – named after the founder of the ILT – that presented strategic insights into laser technology.

The three major tracks of the conference highlighted a large number of innovations in laser technology. While the laser market is growing at record rates, there has been a long-term shift in interest from laser sources towards process technology and applications.

The pressure for higher productivity is leading to stronger digitization or fully digital photonic production, as presented by Reinhart Poprawe in a special session for all the participants. One of the last sessions of the conferences focused on a highly debated future topic: quantum technologies. In that field, it is quantum sensing that currently attracts a lot of interest, promising a wide range of new applications in technical and life-science applications.

Parallel to AKL’18, a new Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence called “Advanced Laser Photon Sources” was officially launched. The cluster plans to develop a new generation of USP lasers with up to 20 kW by 2022. The 20-million euro project is governed by the Fraunhofer institutes ILT and IOF. Both institutes join their laser development capabilities and provide two application labs in Jena and Aachen where the other ten partners can immediately start to test and improve their application technology.

On the evening of May 3, Reinhard Poprawe inaugurated the initiative “I3 Research Center Digital Photonic Production” as a new and trend-setting form of interdisciplinary university collaboration. At the “I3-RCDPP”, researchers from 16 institutes across 6 faculties will conduct research on the use of photons in the production of the future. The laser community meets again for AKL’20 on May 6 – 8, 2020 in Aachen. (Source: Fh. ILT)

Link: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’18, www.lasercongress.org

Further reading: Three Finalists – Inno­vation Award Laser Tech­nology 2018, photonicsviews.com, May 3rd, 2018 • Laser Technik Journal 2/2018 April (AKL’18 issue)

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