UK university helps develop a new generation of laser technologies

Cranfield U. will collaborate on laser-based processes, particularly laser welding and laser additive manufacturing, in a new Centre.

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Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England - Cranfield University is collaborating in a UK Centre that will be looking at innovative ways of using lasers in UK manufacturing to replace conventional tools.

The Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes, led by Heriot-Watt University, is supported by 5.6M pounds of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and 4.8M pounds from the UK manufacturing industry. This is the sixth Centre for Innovative Manufacturing that Cranfield is involved in, reinforcing the university’s reputation in manufacturing research.

The Centre will develop new laser-based processes using a wide range of materials and combinations of materials, as well as exploring different existing laser-based production processes and technologies to increase productivity, functionality, and quality.

"The Centre will allow a rigorous scientific approach to be combined with innovative thinking to develop unique solutions to joining problems with, and for industrial partners," said Prof. Stewart Williams, head of Cranfield’s Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre. "Cranfield will have a substantial role in the new EPSRC Centre, focusing on the fundamentals of laser-based production processes, particularly those related to metal fusion such as welding and additive manufacture."

The Centre will combine world-class and complementary expertise in all significant aspects of the science and engineering, underpinning laser-based production processes, including industrial laser and machine technologies, sensing, laser-material interaction, and manufacturing process applications. The industrial partners span the complete value chain for laser-based production processes, including manufacturers of industrial lasers and laser production systems, and end-users who exploit lasers in a wide range of manufacturing processes.

Key challenges are: to develop new laser-based processes, enabling the use of a wider range of materials and combinations of materials, e.g., joining of dissimilar and highly dissimilar materials; development and use of ultrafast pulsed lasers in non-thermal surface and bulk processing and machining; and to increase quality and reliability with reduced cost for existing laser-based manufacturing processes e.g., laser additive manufacturing, welding, and laser micromachining.

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