A consortium of European scientists is developing a new precision pulsed laser that looks set to boost the car industry with a 10 percent reduction in waste products, a five percent reduction in chassis costs, and a two-third decrease in manufacturing time.
Operating at 1.5km/s, the new laser will be powerful enough to cut the hardest boron steel used in car construction at one cubic centimetre per minute—over a thousand times faster than existing technology that currently ablates steel at one cubic millimetre per minute.
Exerting an average power of 2.5kW, or 100kW in a single pulse, and with repetition rates up to 1GHz (magnitudes higher than the current 1MHz upper limit), the laser will have the control and refinement to etch moulds for vehicle parts at micron-scale accuracy as well as micro-weld dissimilar metals for solar thermal absorbers.
Pulsed lasers send out short blasts of energy, or ‘pulses’, in tiny fractions of a second. For this new laser, the pulses are so fast that their duration is measured in femtoseconds.
Aiming to improve car manufacturing speed and efficiency, while reducing the potential production costs and environmental impact, the new pulse laser system has received a €5 million development grant from the European Commission.
Going by the acronym ‘PULSE’, the consortium behind the new laser draws on expertise from 11 research institutions and industry partners from six different European countries and is coordinated by Tampere University in Finland.
“By harnessing the unique characteristics of patent protected tapered double-clad fibre amplifiers power-scaled multichannel laser, the PULSE project will create unparalleled high-power beam qualities, M2<1.1, and pulse energies 2.5-250µJ,” said Dr Regina Gumenyuk, project coordinator.
The laser system will enable an improved digital design to lighten vehicle chassis weight—benefitting fuel economy and increasing the range of electric vehicles.
A prototype is expected to be ready by 2021.
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