Ultrafast laser for nanotechnology

November 20--The 7.5 million pound MicroBridge facility at the Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC), Cardiff University, was officially opened in October 2006 by Welsh Assembly Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks Andrew Davies, who said that MicroBridge would "further enhance Wales' reputation as a world center of expertise." With this facility, MEC expects to move forward as a major player in the field of nanotechnology, where experts have predicted a global turnover of a trillion dollars by 2015.

One key enabling technology at the facility is the PicoLase 1000, an ultrafast micromachining system from Oxford Lasers (Oxon, U.K.; www.oxfordlasers.com). The facility will use the system to complement its other manufacturing equipment and, in particular, to enable product miniaturization and development of new manufacturing platforms for the next generation of micro systems-based products.

Funding for the MicroBridge project was provided by the DTI, the Welsh Assembly Government, and other industrial partners, including Oxford Lasers. It is one nine open-access facilities within the U.K. to promote the use of micro- and nanotechnology and to provide specialist training alongside these facilities. Oxford Lasers will work closely with MEC through the five-year project to develop and support picosecond laser-based microprocessing.

"By producing such small components, manufacturers can save on materials, reduce component count, and reduce labor--dramatically lowering overall costs and adjusting market pricing to become more competitive and increasing profits," says Frank Marsh, the MEC's marketing director. "The benefits from this jump in technology will be almost immediate and will have implications across a range of sectors."

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