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Prometheus project to bridge the existing gap between niche and mainstream applications for high power ultra-short pulse laser surface processing

PORTO SALVO, 4-Apr-2019 — /EPR INDUSTRIAL NEWS/ — Prometheus’ project will bridge the existing gap between niche and mainstream applications for high power ultra-short pulse laser surface processing. This advanced technology enables the production of materials with advanced properties such as non-stick, low wear/friction, oleophobic or hydrophobic, but through this unique project will deliver a broad range of surface functionalities onto metals, polymers and ceramics by way of high throughput, high spatial resolution Direct Laser Interference Patterning (DLIP) surface processing. It is expected to deliver unprecedented surface texturing speeds of up to 5 m2/min and enable high resolution features down to 1 μm to be produced with minimal heat impact on work pieces. This ambitious project represents a pan-European EU consortium of world leading organizations, from industrial and research partners to four manufacturers – Maier, Johnson and Johnson, Fiat Chrysler Automobile group and Arcelik – that will be able to assess the project’s outputs against current industrial processes. Wrapping up the thee-year project, and through breakthrough developments in laser sources, optics, process setup, control and monitoring, the consortium will deliver an integrated laser processing demonstrator system to showcase its capabilities according to the established goals.

Beyond the expected improvement on accuracy, the Prometheus project qualitative objectives include better resources utilization from raw materials to energy and waste. It is also expected a quantum leap on the speed of materials’ processing, as mentioned, by reaching 2-5 m2/min, while also minimizing heat impact on sensitive materials. The project aims to achieve improved flexibility and allow for a simpler product customization – all of this at a fraction of existing solutions’ cost. The case studies being developed include a dishwasher, a tumble dryer, a cylinder piston liner, and high strength aluminium pressing for automotive.

The unique ability of this technology to deliver precise periodic arrays of surface features at an unprecedented processing rate will contribute to its entrance into mainstream manufacturing processes, from its current usage in niche ultra-high value applications. The DLIP (Direct Laser Interference Patterning) technology enables the full utilisation of the high-power laser systems delivering profound productivity gains versus current technologies. Also, by being digital by default, the system enables rapid reconfiguration to deliver customised surface functionalities and patterns on a component by component basis.

Keeping Europe at the core of innovation and environmental leadership

This unique project will bring to light a high potential high power ultra-short pulse laser processing system. Prometheus will address some of the key European 2020 societal challenges, both by ensuring that European companies and research organizations stay at the leading edge of the new
manufacturing technologies and by creating new jobs opportunities. At the same time, the project will minimize environmental impacts.

Prometheus will also contribute to support the goal of increasing investment in innovation up to 3% of the EU’s GDP. The new approaches to surface engineering made possible by this technology will have an impact on the increase in R&D spending, both in photonic component development
necessary to control the increased power densities and in widespread application development.

The exceptionally high processing rate enables cost-effective processing to price-sensitive industrial sectors such as the consortium partners, spanning automotive, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), white goods and consumer durables. The effect will also be felt on the overall value chain, given the expected technology transfer and training across manufacturing sectors, as it becomes mainstream.

SOURCE: EuropaWire