Scanner head developed for high-throughput laser texturing

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The new polygon scanner head and decorative elements produced on stainless steel. (Image: LAMpAS)

The partners of the EU-funded LAMpAS project have announced the successful development of a high-speed direct laser interference patterning (DLIP)-polygon scanner head, for the production of laser-textured surfaces at high throughput.

Developed by Scanlab and the Technische Universität (TU) Dresden, the scanner is capable of producing periodic surface structures with features of around 3.5µm in size, which is about eight-times smaller than those achievable with conventional polygon scanners, according to the partners. 

LAMpAS was established in 2019 with a grant of €5.1 million under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. 

The aim of the project is to develop the potential of laser structuring and make the application deployable at industrial levels at affordable costs. It aims to do this by enhancing the efficiency, flexibility, and throughput of structuring via a newly developed high-power ultra-short-pulsed laser system, together with advanced optical concepts.

Inspired by nature, the LAMpAS structures, in the form of well-defined periodic surface patterns with feature sizes smaller than 1µm, can provide tailored surface functions for applications including hydrophobic, anti-fingerprint, decorative, and easy to clean finishes for ovens, fridges, and other home appliances.

“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,” added Professor Andrés Lasagni from TU Dresden, coordinator of the LAMpAS project.

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.”

With high laser power also being key to the success of LAMpAS, the partners have also developed a unique laser device capable of wielding the required level of power, which is now being combined with the newly announced DLIP-polygon head. 

“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, also from TU Dresden.

The final LAMpAS system is being integrated in Belgium by Lasea. It will also include two monitoring systems, which via two different techniques will assure the stability of the structuring process as well as the quality of the obtained surface properties. Thus, in addition to increasing the throughput of laser-textured surface production, the partners’ innovative strategy also includes the early detection of any process malfunctions and instabilities.

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

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