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SPIE Photonics West 2020

Beaming bright in San Francisco

The annual US photonics show will have plenty on offer for industrial laser users from 1 to 6 February

Some 22,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibitors will once again be descending on the Moscone Center in San Francisco in February to get their annual fill of the most recent developments in photonics.

Those looking to learn about the latest research in materials processing need look no further than the Lase 2020 conference track, where experts will be presenting on everything from the laser sources themselves to the many types of application they are used in – both on the micro and macro scale.

In the field of surface treatment, for example, speakers from the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in the UK will be discussing their work on using ultrashort-pulse lasers to machine hard tool materials such as tungsten carbide. They have been analysing how the process parameters of micromachining with a picosecond laser influence geometric precision and surface quality in tool manufacture. While they are currently able to achieve an ablation rate of around 45mm3 using a 300W picosecond laser, they report that the issue of edge wall taper still remains. 

Also on the topic of surface treatment, experts from the French technology centre Alphanov will be sharing how they plan to upscale laser polishing to large 3D surfaces. They expect this to be of particular interest to those generating parts via additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry. Using a 10kW fibre laser with a spot size between 1 and 2mm, the researchers intend to improve polishing times from 20-60s/cm2 to 5-10s/cm2, and will conduct tests on three different types of metal.

For those interested in welding, this year a number of talks will focus on the joining of dissimilar materials, as well copper-to-copper welding – both of which have presented numerous challenges in recent years.

Speakers from Trumpf, for example, will be presenting welding strategies for joining aluminium to copper using fast-oscillating, high-quality, single-mode laser beams. Such techniques are important as joining materials with dissimilar metallurgical properties is still proving to be a challenge in modern battery cell production and e-mobility. The experts will report on their success in achieving mechanical stability in a micro structured manner, minimising the created intermetallic phase zone between the copper and aluminium. Other experts from Trumpf will be discussing their success in using a new 2kW green CW laser for copper welding. In a spatter-free process they have succeeded in producing copper weld spots and seams with unprecedented reproducibility in diameter and welding depth. Such welds will also be crucial for processing electronic components for e-mobility. 

The joining of aluminium and steel parts will also be discussed at Lase 2020 – a capability particularly sought after in the transportation sector for producing lightweight structures. This is still presenting challenges, however, due to the large difference in the melting points of aluminium and iron, plus the rapid formation of fragile intermetallic compounds. Researchers from the University of Nantes in France will be presenting their solution to address this issue. They first use a powder additive manufacturing process called cold spraying to deposit a thick layer of aluminium onto the steel part. They are then able to join the aluminium part to the aluminium layer via conventional laser welding.

All this and much more will be awaiting material processing enthusiasts at Photonics West this year.

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