“LIGHT” at LASER World of Photonics 2015

Luminescent man-sized eye-catcher at the Fraunhofer booth: the LIGHT exhibit, manufactured with 3D printing. (Source: Fh.- ILT / Klaus D. Wolf).

Luminescent man-sized eye-catcher at the Fraunhofer booth: the LIGHT exhibit, manufactured with 3D printing. (Source: Fh.- ILT / Klaus D. Wolf).

By using the heading “Light”, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT presented itself at the LASER World of Photonics in two distinct ways: it addressed both a focus upon lightweight construction as well as one on new systems for generating laser light. Furthermore, the institute showed a large number of new ideas for industrial laser technology at this photonics exhibition, the world’s largest with more than 30,000 visitors this year.

In Aachen, Fraunhofer ILT develops processes and systems for the applications of laser technology in industry and research. These include special beam sources for materials processing, medical technology or for space-based applications. In addition, the institute’s experts accompany their industrial partners in the development of new processes, such as in additive processes for production of metallic parts with lasers, or laser welding of new combinations of materials – such as those used in lightweight construction.

Eye Catcher from the 3D Printer 

One of the most striking eye-catchers of the exhibition welcomed the guests at the Fraunhofer stand: this year’s motto »LIGHT« was announced in man-sized letters. The real surprise was in the lattice structure of the letters – they were made in Europe’s largest commercial stereo lithography plant at the company Materialise in Leuven, Belgium. The process is one of the common 3D printing methods for the production of plastic components.

The industry has developed a great interest in such additive processes for manufacturing tailor-made components and tools, especially since some of these processes have now become commonly accepted in daily industrial use. At the booth of Fraunhofer ILT, the institute showed different metallic components used in the automotive industry, the aerospace industry, medical technology and tool construction, all of which were produced by Selective Laser Melting SLM, a process patented by Fraunhofer ILT. Particularly in lightweight construction, SLM-manufactured components are being increasingly used because their weight can be reduced when they are provided with a hollow interior structure. Depending on requirements, the components can have a fill factor ranging from 10 to 100%.

Converter with variable optics sets to provide flexible output wavelengths in the IR range. (Source Fh.-ILT, Aachen / Klaus D. Wolf)

Converter with variable optics sets to provide flexible output wavelengths in the IR range. (Source Fh.-ILT, Aachen / Klaus D. Wolf)

Ultrafast Lasers for Industrial Applications 

At the largest photonics fair in the world, one of the highlights was again the ultrafast (UFP) lasers developed by the Aachen experts. The institute now offers a whole host of different systems: in addition to laser sources and amplifiers at up to 1.5 kW output power, different modules, for pulse shortening or for tunable wavelength conversion for example, are offered. All systems are designed specifically for industrial applications, and they offer distinct advantages over the existing technology both in terms of the service life as well as productivity.

Joining of Material Combinations for Lightweight Construction 

Whether in aircraft construction or the automotive industry, lightweight materials are in vogue. However, most of them place special requirements upon processing, particularly if different materials are to be joined. Laser technology provides effective solutions for this, which Fraunhofer ILT showed at several exhibits.

An example was the adhesive-free joining of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) and metal. For this, laser is used to structure the surface of the metal component – the liquid plastic then flows into these 100-micron deep structures. During curing, the plastic literally digs into the metal surface. At its stand, the institute displayed a car door with plastic reinforcement manufactured by this process.

Technology Update Made Easy: Presentations at the Application Panels 

Parallel to the various conferences and workshops at the Laser World of Photonics Congress, the Messe München assembled an attractive series of presentations in the trade fair halls. With a view to possible applications, the application panels presented innovations ranging from medical diagnostics to materials processing and optical components all the way to the entire laser system. Employees of Fraunhofer ILT acted in 6 of the 16 panels as co-chairs. The application panels are ideal for a quick introduction to the current state of the art, as for example, could be seen in the presentation given by Dr. Wilhelm Meiners of Fraunhofer ILT: “Laser-based Additive Manufacturing: Basic Principles and Examples of Applications.”

WLT Award 2015 Goes to Dr. Stefan Hengesbach 

A major event in the congress program was the prize of the Scientific Society for Laser Technology 2015 awarded to the Aachen scientist Dr. Stefan Hengesbach. As one of two winners, he received the award at a special plenary session of the Conference »Lasers in Manufacturing LIM – 2015« for his work on frequency control and the tight spectral multiplexing of diode laser modules. Thanks to his work, radiance of modern diode ideas can be increased by up to two orders of magnitude.

Summary 

Overall, the laser specialists from Aachen can look back upon a very successful fair. Many projects were presented and new ideas and contacts were collected at the booth, the congress and in a variety of forum contributions. The latter covered a wide range of topics from laser processing in lightweight construction, nonlinear optics and tunable lasers through to thin-film editing and 3D processes.

The next LASER – World of Photonics trade show will take place from June 26 to 29, 2017, the next World of Photonics Congress, from June 25 to 29, 2017. (Source: Fh.-ILT)

Links: Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, Aachen

 

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