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Laser texturing machine to produce "cleaner" home appliances

The LAMpAS project has successfully developed a new machine for the high-throughput, low-cost production of laser-textured functionalised surfaces with controlled length scales and feature sizes.

The machine will significantly increase the deployability, flexibility and efficiency of direct laser interference patterning (DLIP) at industrial levels, for producing nature-inspired periodic structures with hydrophobic, anti-fingerprint, decorative, and easy-to-clean properties.

Such structures could be applied as surface finishes for ovens, fridges, and other home appliances. 

The new machine consists of several modules:

  • A high-power (1.5kW) ultrafast laser source developed by Trumpf, offering 1-3ps pulse durations, pulse energies up to 4mJ and the reduced spectral bandwidth required for DLIP
  • A unique optical head that combines a specially designed polygon scanner from Scanlab with a DLIP unit from TU Dresden. The head can produce periodic surface structures with features of around 3.5µm in size – around eight-times smaller than those achievable with conventional optical heads 
  • Two real-time process monitoring systems, one based on a near-infrared camera, the other based on an RGB camera. These systems can detect heat-accumulation or indirectly predict in real time the depth of produced topographies with resolution of about 15nm. They will assure the stability of the structuring process, as well as the quality of the obtained surface properties, by detecting any process malfunctions and instabilities early on.

LAMpAS was established in 2019 with a grant of €5.1 million – under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme – to enable the efficient production of well-defined, nature-inspired periodic surface patterns with feature sizes smaller than 1µm.

The new laser machine conists of a high-power picosecond laser, an innovative beam delivery head and a dual-camera process monitoring system. (Image: LAMpAS)

“These small features are necessary since the functionalities of materials that we would like to improve can be enhanced in particular by reducing their size. This is in general what natural examples do,” said Professor Andrés Lasagni from TU Dresden, coordinator of the LAMpAS project.

Direct laser interference patterning explained

The process of DLIP wielded within the project involves the combination of several laser beams to manipulate and control the intensity distribution of laser energy with resolutions up to the sub-micrometre range.

In particular, combining two laser beams produces a line-like intensity distribution, where the lateral distance between the lines can be controlled by the intercepting angles between the beams. 

“For producing patterns with short spatial distances, large intercepting angles are needed," said Ronny De Loor of Scanlab. “These are impossible to reach using conventional polygon scanners. Furthermore, longer laser wavelengths require even larger angles. Therefore, we needed to develop a very special optical arrangement in order to obtain the required angles.”

Nature-inspired periodic nanostructures are the key to unlocking hydrophobic, anti-fingerprint, decorative, and easy-to-clean properties

Wielding high laser power was also key to achieving the process throughputs demanded of LAMpAS.  

“It has been a challenging task to design an optical configuration capable of receiving over 1kW of optical power provided by an ultrashort (picosecond) pulsed laser source, which has not not been done so far,” remarked Dr Robert Baumann of TU Dresden.

The final LAMpAS system is being integrated in Belgium by Lasea.

Partners of the project include: Next Scan Technology and Lasea (belgium); Trumpf and Bosch (Germany); the European Photonics Industry Consortium (France); and BSH Electrodomesticos Espana and New Infrared Technologies (Spain).

More details about the LAMpAS project can be found on the official website.

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