DTI promotes high-power lasers in manufacturing

August 22--The DTI has approved the funding of a Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (PKTN) to assist in exploiting the applications of light (i.e. photonics) by UK industry. With a start date of 1 July 2006, the funding provides 3.3M (pounds) spread over three years, with the expectation that the PKTN will be further funded at the end of this period. All industrial sectors will have the opportunity to gain from the PKTN, the benefits ranging from easy access to technical and economic information on new or improved optical instrumentation, to achieving high quality and functionality through laser-based manufacturing.

To efficiently fulfill its mandate, the activities of the PKTN are divided into three 'technology nodes,' which are: Photonic Devices, Assemblies and Networks; Photonics Instruments; and Power Photonics. The latter node, Power Photonics, is focused on addressing high-power lasers and their economic application in manufacturing processes, and will be led by the Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU). The aim will be to champion the provision of assistance to UK companies to exploit this most flexible materials processing technology in their manufacturing.

"An initial challenge is to get across to the wider manufacturing community that, in the context of AILU activity 'Photonics' means 'Materials processing using lasers for economic advantage' and that the Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network has some very positive commercial benefits to offer UK manufacturers," says Mike Green, AILU's executive secretary. " The thrust of the message will be that not only are there major potential opportunities for UK companies involved in traditional areas (such as cutting, welding, drilling and marking) to gain competitive advantage by exploiting the benefits of laser technology, but even more exciting opportunities eg in rapid tooling and other metal additive processes; whilst for the many smaller companies working with micro technologies the benefits of using lasers in manufacturing are overwhelming."

For more information, contact PPTN@ailu.org.uk.

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