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Fraunhofer, Trumpf team up on laser material deposition

13 Jan 2022

Laser giant signs technology transfer deal with Aachen-based Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) has signed a new cooperation agreement with the industrial laser giant Trumpf that aims to accelerate the transfer of laser material deposition (LMD) techniques into commercial use.

Scientists and engineers from the two German partners say that industry stands to benefit from a unique combination of world-leading laser system technology and several years of application-specific process know-how.

The hook-up aims to help customers improve the productivity of LMD, select the best materials for a given process, and increase the speed of the approach - with applications in automotive part production among those likely to benefit first.

Complementary expertise
Fraunhofer ILT’s Thomas Schopphoven said: “Our core business is developing application-adapted processes and system technology components. The basis for this is our 30 years of experience in LMD - in applications we have developed for a wide variety of industries.”

Schopphoven and his team are well known for their work in the LMD field, with their innovations in high-speed approaches winning various prizes and successfully implemented by industry.

“When we transfer our technologies to industrial applications, our customers are increasingly focusing on the questions of systems engineering implementation, especially with regard to the availability, stability and suitability of the components,” Schopphoven added.

To complement that expertise, Trumpf will bring its experience and know-how in robust and reliable laser materials processing equipment.

Trumpf’s industry manager Marco Göbel describes the latest agreement as a “win-win” for customers. “Thanks to the close cooperation with Fraunhofer ILT, we can offer solutions for the entire production chain from a single source,” he said.

“By combining our system technology - optimized for industrial use - with processes adapted or specially developed for this purpose, we help customers all over the world benefit from these innovations.”

Industrially relevant
Under the terms of the deal, Trumpf will provide the ILT team in Aachen with state-of-the-art laser systems featuring a variety of optical features and powder feed nozzles.

“In this way, we research our processes directly on industrially relevant systems,” says Schopphoven. “This enables us to transfer our research into customer applications particularly efficiently.”

The laser systems are set to be installed imminently, with initial test runs slated to begin during the spring. Promising applications that have been identified already include coating of brake discs and corrosion protection of hydraulic cylinders in cars.

According to the two partners, the LMD agreement represents just the latest cooperation in what is now a long-standing collaboration. “Plans are already underway to expand the cooperation between Trumpf and Fraunhofer ILT in other areas of laser materials processing,” they stated.

• Trumpf also reports that it has developed a technology that increases the speed and efficiency of sheet-metal cutting. Known as "BrightLine Speed", the new approach is said to offer particularly striking benefits for 3D cutting of hot-formed parts typically used to produce B-pillars and door frames in vehicle manufacturing.

According to the firm, the innovation increases cutting speed by up to 60 per cent for sheets up to four millimeters thick. Trumpf product manager Ralf Kohllöffel says that, at the same time, the technique consumes only half of the amount of cutting gas typically used to make each part.

“Our new cutting technology is faster and uses less gas – and that translates into tangible cost savings and a real boost in productivity for our customers,” Kohllöffel said.

Critical to BrightLine Speed is a new, Trumpf-patented laser light cable (LLK) with an inner and outer fiber core. A TruDisk disk laser couples laser light into the LLK and distributes the laser power to both the inner and outer cores using a wedge switch.

"This allows users to adapt the laser power and beam profile more precisely and flexibly to the thickness of the sheet currently being processed," Trumpf said.

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