We recently introduced 5 new application areas that the HiLASE Centre will focus on. The first is dedicated to advanced laser processing and manufacturing technologies. Its expert guarantor is Ing. Jan Brajer, Ph.D. (Head of Department: Industrial Laser Applications).
Advanced laser processing and manufacturing technologies are related to the use of high-end lasers together with advanced sensors, feedback control, and machine learning. These include the functionalisation of surfaces using micro and nanostructures, increasing the durability of metal components and manufacturing components using hybrid technologies, etc. Functionalization means influencing surface properties, such as friction or biocompatibility, using clearly defined structures. It is also about extending the lifetime and safety of critical components by the controlled introduction of residual surface stresses. In terms of technology, we are talking about the use of LSP (Laser Shock Peening), LMM (Laser Micromachining) and LIDT (Laser Induced Damage Threshold). This also includes laser welding and 3D printing.
Since this is a new direction in which the HiLASE Centre will be involved, we asked Jan for an interview to explain advanced laser processing and related technologies.
How would you introduce advanced laser processing and technology?
Today, the laser is used for many industrial applications, from welding to cutting, hardening to marking. Here at HiLASE, we focus on advanced laser applications, i.e. applications that are not yet completely common or those that have been further improved in some way. In laser cutting, for example, we focus on high-precision cutting and drilling to thousandths of millimetres, which is useful in, for example, medical applications. Similarly, surfaces are normally processed primarily by the thermal effect of the laser, and we are trying it without that. In this way, we then infuse the surface with unexpected functions – hydrophobic, hydrophilic, antibacterial, friction improvement, etc.
An integral part of this is Laser Induced Damage Threshold (LIDT) testing, which is preferably used for measuring optics, but can be used for measuring layers or any surface. The application is then, for example, in facility safety, where we are able to determine whether a given material can withstand laser radiation. It is also useful for defence. If there are laser weapons, we can help in the design of laser shields, and there are many more such examples.
Advanced manufacturing or laser technologies go hand in hand with advanced sensors and diagnostics. We use them to ensure process repeatability and quality and to increase, for example, the speed and thus the usability of the technologies under investigation.
What will be our main focus in the near future in relation to this area?
Simply put, developing cooperation with existing and potential partners and customers is important to us. We are focused on the commercialisation of our outputs and we have a lot to offer in a number of laser technologies. Our goal is to implement HiLASE technologies directly into production, thus enabling companies to develop and advance. Not to mention the sustainability, reduction of economic intensity, optimization, and streamlining of production processes. In doing so, it is absolutely essential for us to continuously receive feedback, on the basis of which we will further develop and adapt the technology for the given advanced application.
I personally see cooperation as one of our main values, because it turns out that we really can’t do everything on our own. We need companies to share their problems with us. In turn, we can help them to find the optimal solution, which will then be implemented.
What is the objective of this strategic area?
My dream for the vision for the next 10 years is that we should become the first choice for industrial companies and, in fact, for scientific research institutions, when they want to address the topic of lasers. We can help with the development of the technology, with the implementation of laser safety, or independently assess the best possible solution.
Where do you see the benefit?
The contribution of the area is defined in the very word “advanced”. Using advanced technology means faster, more efficient, greener processing and production. The use of advanced sensors ensures greater accuracy, lower error rates, reduced waste, and more efficient use of material.
It is through advanced laser technology that sustainability in manufacturing itself can be supported. The current state of affairs is unsustainable. However, with the help of the Industry 4.0 initiative, hand in hand with advanced manufacturing technologies, sustainability can also be achieved.
What is in store for us in the near future?
We plan to explore several areas. The most enticing is laser processing on already 3D-printed parts. With this technology, we are able to achieve absolutely unique properties of the part, which can then operate much longer.
Does the HiLASE Centre have experience with the use of LSP on 3D-printed parts?
Yes, I can mention the joint implants that we processed with PROSPON. It is about guaranteeing the quality of the already printed part and at the same time delivering the desired properties by applying the appropriate laser technology. This is a completely new concept in the production of joint implants that are printed on a 3D printer directly to the patient’s specifications. With 3D-printed implants, there is sometimes uncertainty in maintaining the properties, mainly due to cyclical stresses. Thanks to the application of LSP, we can extend the existing implant life by many years, which is especially appreciated by the younger generation (eliminating the need to replace the implant).
A case study of the application of HiLASE Laser Shock Peening (LSP) technology to joint implants can be viewed HERE. In addition to the positive impact on PROSPON itself, the study shows that innovative laser technologies can bring new applications in the field of medicine, with a very positive impact on the individuals themselves, where the quality of life is improved thanks to the extended life of the implant.
It is obvious that advanced laser processing and manufacturing technologies have a high potential to significantly influence not only the industry and its various sectors, society, but also the economy and competitiveness of the Czech Republic. In the economic sphere, the production processes lead to an increase in productivity, cost reduction, increase in production quality and production efficiency, which also leads to increased export opportunities and interesting possibilities for cooperation.
The interview with Jan Brajer, the guarantor of the Advanced Laser Processing and Manufacturing Technologies area, was conducted by Marie Thunová, Head of Marketing & PR.