With the 'laser light' tool, manufacturing processes can be handled automatically and flexibly, producing components and products of extraordinary quality, and in a much 'greener' way in comparison to most other energy sources.
The trend towards customisation and the growing importance of industrial design, as observed most notably in consumer electronics, will require novel methods for proving new product properties and shapes, and bespoke production capabilities. The inherent flexibility of the laser tool makes it the ideal choice for meeting these requirements. Further advantages of the laser as a working tool are that it does not wear out, it allows the integration of monitoring and control systems based on intelligent photonic sensing techniques, and it allows zero-fault production, even in single part production.
The extreme precision with which laser energy can be applied results in a substantial reduction in the total energy consumption, when compared to standard production processes. This makes laser processing an increasingly relevant technology for a future sustainable economy in Europe. The ability of the laser to machine materials that are otherwise very difficult to process with conventional tools makes it an ideal tool for fabricating lightweight, high-strength constructions, such as crash-safe car bodies or wind turbine blades. Furthermore, the laser itself will play a major role in facilitating green manufacturing, since laser processes allow for very precise, well-controlled and therefore highly efficient energy deposition on the work piece. A further environmental attraction of laserbased processes is the reduced consumption of chemicals, for example, by replacing the chemical etching baths currently used for the manufacturing of rotogravure cylinders by a laser engraving process. Innovative laser processes will increase the efficiency of photovoltaic devices and will enable energy storage devices with higher capacities; a key requirement for future electric cars.
Laser processing is also expected to make a significant contribution in tackling the societal challenge presented by the ageing population in Europe. This will result from the wide range of innovative new products enabled by new photonic manufacturing technologies, including such varied products as
pace-makers, synthetic bones, endoscopes, and micro-cameras used for in-vivo health care processes.
Today, photonics is not solely a driver for innovation in manufacturing; the photonic technologies, laser tools and process systems themselves are a worldwide multi billion industry, dominated by European companies. Consequently, in addition to photonics aligning well with sustainable development, green technologies and resource-efficient production, it also contributes significantly to employment.
Major photonics needs
The major photonics need is to broaden the spectrum of applications of laser production technologies, especially so in light of the increasing demand for energy and resource efficient products. This applies to all sectors where laser technology can offer new production solutions, new product qualities, and cost benefits. Key opportunities for this include energy conversion, electronics, hybrid materials, lightweight construction, mass customisation and rapid manufacturing, print technology, and product marking.
The detailed Photonics21 Work Group 2 photonics research and innovation priorities are outlined if you download the Photonics Roadmap.
You will find the Work Group 2 research and innovation priorities for Horizon 2020 Work programme 2016/2017 in the section Photonics PPP – Research and Innovation Priorities.
Information and presentations of the Work Group 2 workshops can be found in the Photonics21 member area.