EU research groups launch laser micromachining initiative for SMEs

Mons, Belgium -- A group of European research centers and universities have created a "network of expertise" for laser micromanufacturing, specifically targeting small- and medium-sized enterprises in Northwest Europe.

The €3 million initiative dubbed "ECO-LASERFACT" (ECO-efficient LASER technology for FACTories of the future), funded under the IVB framework, has two aims:

- Federate certain Northwest-Europe laser institutes, R&D centers and universities involved in laser micromanufacturing. The goal is to create a transnational "network of expertise" for different advanced laser processes, including micro- and nanostructuring, rapid manufacturing, joining, and assembly.

- Transfer their know-how to SMEs for improved eco-friendly and cost-effective laser-based processes, through feasibility studies, workshops, exhibits, and training, to give SMEs experience and validate solutions based on the latest advances in laser micromanufacturing. Also on the drawing board are several pilot projects to set up scalable laser-based processes and process chains for industrialization.

Project participants include: Multitel, Sirris, Wallonia Photonic Cluster, and Vito (from Belgium); Bayerisches Laserzentrum and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany); Irépa Laser and EPIC (France); and the University of Cardiff and University of Birmingham (United Kingdom).

The EU has previously funded other laser networking work (e.g. the European Laser Institute), but this is the first such effort specifically targeting SMEs. ELI will in fact participate in ECO-LASERFACT "as an external observer," to help orient the project to identified industrial needs (e.g. manufacturing, aerospace, medicine) and support dissemination to SMEs, the groups say. Examples include tapping into other EU work being conducted by these same partners, such asfiber lasers used to process solar cells), manufacturing of healthcare, IT, auto, and electronics, R&D laser-based installations, and fiber laser sources for material processing.

Contact the following partner representatives for more information on the ECO-LASERFACT initiative:

- Bertrand Tiberghien, project lead,
- Domenico Giannone (Belgium),
- Wilhelm Pfleging (Germany),
- Yannick Lafue (France),
- Stefan Dimov (UK),

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