Aachen, Germany – The state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s 2011 Innovation Award in the "Innovation" category has been awarded to Professor Reinhart Poprawe, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, and his team of laser experts comprising Dr. Andres Gasser, Dr. Ingomar Kelbassa, Dr. Wilhelm Meiners, and Dr. Konrad Wissenbach.
The award, which carries a cash prize of 100,000 euros, was presented to the winners by Svenja Schulze, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, at a ceremony held on November 14, 2011, at the K21 Museum of Contemporary Art in the state capital of Dusseldorf.
The Fraunhofer ILT research team has been driving forward progress in the field of additive manufacturing for over 20 years, developing techniques that help to save energy and resources in the production environment. The institute’s specialists have systematically evolved laser processes for use with different materials and in different applications, paving the way to their implementation on an industrial scale.
Poprawe and his team are experts in the technique of selective laser melting (SLM), a field in which Fraunhofer ILT has led the way since its inception. SLM enables customized components such as medical implants or functional parts for machine tools to be manufactured cost-effectively and extremely rapidly in small batches on the basis of 3-D CAD data, following the just-in-time principle.
This has opened the door to entirely new business models in the manufacturing industry, including mass customization, open innovation and co-creation, which allow end users to participate in the design process or even take over a large part of the design work themselves.