Fiber laser for cutting reinforced plastics

Oct. 21, 2010
Liverpool, UK – Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has equipped its Photonics in Engineering (PiE) research laboratory with a next generation high power ytterbium fiber laser from JK Lasers, Rugby, UK.

Liverpool, UK – Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has equipped its Photonics in Engineering (PiE) research laboratory with a next generation high power ytterbium fiber laser from JK Lasers, Rugby, UK.

The PiE group, based in the university’s General Engineering Research Institute (GERI), will now have four industrial lasers from JK Lasers that are suited to pursuing research into welding, cutting, drilling, and micromachining applications.

The JK Fiber laser complements existing pulsed Nd:YAG laser and opens up new applications in high speed machining of metals and composite materials.

The PiE researchers, led by Dr. Martin Sharp, are using the laser systems in a wide variety of applications, in projects ranging from laser micromachining of polymeric material for the biomedical sector to macro laser processing of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP, "Composites") for aerospace and automotive applications.

Dr. Paul French, another founding member of the PiE Group and lead researcher on Composites, says "we recognized that if lasers are going to be part of the aerospace industry in the future, we must find successful processing parameters for CFRP."

PiE has procured its own fiber laser system to carry on the composites work, following successful processing trials using a fiber laser at JK Lasers. There are a number of research groups around the world that are investigating laser processing of CFRP using mainly UV laser systems or ultrashort picosecond or femtosecond lasers.

The work at PiE is novel in that it is investigating the processing of CFRP materials using a laser source that produces a continuous or modulated laser beam and whose capital cost is a fraction of the more expensive ultrashort pulse lasers.

Dr. French reports, "A number of aerospace companies are excited by the results so far and all with a concerted effort, I am confident we can produce the results that will allow the aerospace and automotive sector to implement the technology on the shop floor. This could be a very important market for fiber laser sales in the future."

Liverpool John Moores University’s GERI is an international center of excellence in advanced manufacturing, optical instrumentation and metrology, inspection and reliability of electronic assemblies, and the laser processing of materials. It is one of the leading research departments in the UK for general engineering. The PiE Research Group was formed in 2008 by Drs. Martin Sharp and Paul French, who together have more than 40 years of both academic and industrial experience in the field of laser materials processing.

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