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Gooch & Housego begins HALO laser R&D project

19 Dec 2012

International High power Adaptable Laser beams of various types to be developed for materials processing.

UK-based Gooch & Housego has announced the start of work on the HALO (High power Adaptable Laser beams for materials processing) technology transfer project. The project, inaugurated in September and funded as part of the EU FP7 program, will develop and apply research into laser welding technology with a view to improving both efficiencies and capabilities in this area.

The use of lasers in industry has grown hugely in the last five years however in order to be truly competitive in a global market, the European manufacturing sector needs more effective materials processing capability.

The HALO project will then look at how both CW and pulsed laser systems can improve efficiencies in welding, cutting sheet metal and glass (with thickness ranging from <1mm to 25mm). HALO aims to put in place the necessary elements to enable significant advances in lasers for material processing.

Optics.org interviewed Andrew Robertson, Gooch And Housego’s Senior VP, Business Technology & Development, who is coordinating the HALO R&D project.

Roberston commented, “In the HALO project G&H is the coordinator and we are leading a couple of the work programmes. The premise of the project is that different types of laser beam can do different jobs better, such as cutting and processing materials, whether the laser beam profiles are annular, Gaussian or top hat. A laser that can adapt its beam dependent on application is a more useful tool than one that cannot”.

”With ORC in Southampton, we are developing a new type of fiber laser and at our Torquay facility we are developing novel fused fiber components. For example, we plan to use photonic crystal fibers to develop components for pump beam conditioning and beam re-shaping. Such components should allow the laser beam to be adapted with minimal change to the laser cavity, enabling different types of beams to be emitted.”

G&H will also be developing components for adjustable beam diode pumped solid state lasers and will be working closely with Trumpf on this task.

Robertson added, "G&H specializes in the development and manufacture of high power, free-space components at our Ilminster [Somerset, UK]facility; critical in these systems will be the development of Q-switches that create energetic pulses for the adaptable beam lasers as well as components that will enable the switching between different beam shapes.

Shaping and modelling

"There are two key aspects to the project as a whole: developing the hardware to adapt and control the beam shape as described previously and the other aspect being the development of a ‘meta-model’ that determines which process goes best with which beam type.

"The development of a "meta model" will involve a combination of both the modelling and testing of laser processing with a variety of materials and processing requirements. The consortium will be investigating the cutting of brittle materials such as glass as well as sheet metals.

"This is a €5.7m project,” Roberston said. “It is part of the ‘Factories of the Future’ call from the EU, specifically focusing on agile manufacturing. The industrial partners are working with a matched funding model, so they put in some R&D funding with is matched by EU. Markets of interest are micro and macro machining. It could also be aimed at biomedical applications, or any other application where lasers are used. But the overall aim is to maintain the leading competitive position of European manufacturing."

Christoph Helmrath, European Commission Project Officer, addedd, "HALO is one of a number of initiatives funded by the European Union which aims to undertake world class photonics research into materials processing with the aim of increasing European manufacturing's competitiveness in a global market."

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org

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