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UK funds Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network to support industry

05 Oct 2006

Significant financial support and technology transfer will benefit industry in three target sectors: devices & networks, instruments, and high-power photonics.

The UK government has approved substantial funding for the Photonics Knowledge Transfer Network (PKTN) to accelerate the exploitation of photonics by industry. From July 2006 onwards the initiative will provide £3.3 million ($6.2 million) over three years, with the expectation of further funding after 2009.

All industrial sectors will have the opportunity to gain from the PKTN, with likely benefits ranging from improved access to information about optical instrumentation to increasing product performance by laser-based manufacturing.

The activities of the PKTN are divided into three key "technology nodes": photonic devices, assemblies & networks; photonics instruments; and power photonics. The latter is focused on application of high-power lasers to manufacturing, and will be led by the Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU).

"The PKTN program is based on a strategy of technology transfer, in the form of seminars, improved web-based information and one-to-one consultations, explaining how lasers can improve the economics of manufacturing," said Tim Holt, AILU President. "Our association has always seen technology transfer as its raison d'être: organizing industrial workshops, producing an applications-focused magazine and providing free advice."

The government initiative will contribute around £100,000 ($188,000) a year, allowing AILU to expand its activities beyond existing laser users to reach manufacturing organizations currently not aware of the potential benefits of using lasers. Target areas include MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems), nanotechnology and medical devices.

"As well as the opportunities for companies involved in cutting, welding, drilling and marking, there are laser applications in rapid tooling and metal additive processes," added Mike Green, AILU's executive secretary. "For many companies working with micro technologies, the benefits of using lasers in manufacturing are overwhelming."

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