EU-funded project aims to 3D print complete laser systems

A new €1.99 million EU-funded research project is aiming to produce complete laser systems using 3D printing.

The three-year project, co-funded by the ERDF programme (European Regional Development Funding) and the German state of Lower Saxony, began in July and is being carried out by the scientists of the innovation network GROTESK (generative manufacturing of optical, thermal and structural components). The newtwork is led by the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) and also consists of the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH), the Clausthaler Zentrum für Materialtechnik (CZM) and the Hochschule Hannover - University of Applied Sciences and Arts (CZM).

Together the institutes are looking to produce optomechanical components made of multiple materials such as glass, polymers and metals in one step using 3D printing. By doing this it will then be possible to create complex optical geometries, or to print holders with integrated cooling channels, around conventional components, such as laser crystals.

In the future, cooling channels will be able to be directly integrated in laser crystal holders. (Image: LZH)

‘For the first time ever, multifunctional optomechanical assemblies including the optics are being constructed,’ LUH stated in its announcement of the project. ‘The challenge is the generative manufacturing of these components from multiple materials in a single process environment. The goal of completing the project is to realise demonstrator production using the developed generative manufacturing process. On the basis of these demonstrators, the feasibility and technological progress will be demonstrated.’

In cooperation with the other institutes, the Laser Zentrum Hannover will be defining the requirements for the proposed optical elements, creating their design and examining the finished products for their optical, thermal and structural properties.

The GROTESK project partners. (Image: Alexander Wolf, iPeG, Uni Hannover)

‘With Additive Manufacturing we can leave conventional thinking behind.’ said Dr Dietmar Kracht, scientific-technical director of the LZH. ‘The manufacturing of optics and components can be implemented in a completely different way. We are thus creating new design options for optical transmission paths, housing structures and thermal management.’

Thumbnail caption: The 3D printing of glass can enable new optic geometries. (Image: LZH)

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