The best and the brightest developments in laser technology will be on display in Munich this June
Laser World of Photonics has established itself as a key event for those involved in the use of imaging processes and optical technologies in manufacturing. A combination of rapidly developing technology and an increasing need for innovative industrial applications has resulted in a vibrant sector where optical components and sophisticated optical processes are in strong demand worldwide. The event in Munich, Germany, will reflect this vibrancy. Reportedly sold out last year – its 40th anniversary – the 2015 show will feature a 25% increase in display areas and an impressive array of exhibitors. Alongside the event there will be an extensive range of conferences and themed events, drawing together colleagues from industry, scientific research and academia.
The organisers have suggested ‘imaging’ as a focus topic for the 2015 event, highlighting the prevalence of image processing in manufacturing environments. For the automotive industry, obvious applications such as testing and measurement technologies, quality control and material processing spring to mind, but the range of exhibitors will illustrate many more and emphasise the essential connection of image processing technology with automated production and robotic controls.
Laser World 2015 will combine the usual mixture of new product launches with the showcasing of developing technologies. For instance, laser specialists Rofin will come to Munich with an enhanced range of high-power fibre lasers. A new, third-generation FL Series product integrates more powerful pumping modules and sets new standards in fibre laser technology. Rofin says its fibre laser products are an ideal tool for automotive welding when used in combination with modern scanner technology to enhance productivity by maximising use of the laser sources.
With its Scanner Welding System, Rofin can offer fast beam deflection systems suitable for robotically guided remote welding to tackle complex 3D shapes. The Compact version of the FL Series combines high output with small dimensions, allowing its use in cutting systems. Rofin plans to show a 4kW model from its Compact range, as well as launching a new series of high-power, fibre-coupled diode lasers.
The company intends to display the first model of this technology with 6kW power output. Boasting high efficiency and a homogenous beam profile, due to top-hat intensity distribution, the new diode lasers are ideal for surface treatment, cladding and brazing applications. Rofin is keen to emphasise that high technology need not mean complexity; its products feature a modular design to allow scalable power, while a standardised customer interface and remote access for diagnostics ensure the kind of user friendliness needed for industrial production.
The Tru potential of lasers
Trumpf, a leader in both the laser market and the development of laser technology, is another company planning to make a big impact at Munich. The company promises to bring a number of new products and concepts suitable for a wide range of industrial and scientific applications. This will include an expanded TruMicro series, with additional beam sources and new improved optical systems – enhancements which can benefit productivity in a range of industrial settings.
Another key area of Trumpf’s display will focus on sensors. The company has long identified reliable sensor systems as essential elements in ensuring successful results in laser welding. Intelligent sensors monitoring process parameters can result in consistent quality.
A newly developed sensor system from Trumpf will be of particular interest to visitors from the automotive sector. This technology allows fillet welds to be monitored by means of a high-speed camera mounted almost coaxial with the laser beam, making it possible to continuously adjust the focusing optics and ensure the accurate targeting of the seam. With robotics and focusing optics both on the increase, this sensor system is sure to find a market that will welcome its ability to improve weld quality and reduce costs.
Since process optimisation is an ever more important aspect of automotive production, visitors to Munich will be interested in the optical systems capable of detecting minute variations and capturing them, whether in the course of collision testing, dynamic performance tests or a fast-moving, automated production process.
Many suppliers at the event will display high-speed imaging systems; imaging is moving out of the test lab and onto the production floor. For example, Opto will show sophisticated optical systems to evaluate crystallisation in cylinder bore sliding surfaces at high levels of magnification. By revealing the micro-structures in the laboratory, engineers can optimise the coating and machining choices they make.
However, the challenge now is to develop systems which will allow the continuous monitoring of these characteristics during the production process rather than via a spot-check regime. Modern camera systems are making it possible to replace retroactive inspection with continuous process optimisation.
Elsewhere, sophisticated vision systems are an integral part of the robotic guidance technologies necessary for fully automated processes. Munich will feature many suppliers of such equipment. Vitronic, for example, will offer its VIROseki optical welding seam inspection systems and VINSpec optical surface inspection system with 3D capability. Other application areas include surfaces and contours of sealing and functional surfaces. It is likely that this year’s show will reveal evidence of the continuing trend among suppliers to offer ‘plug and automate’ solutions where 3D robotic guidance need only be parameterised, avoiding time-consuming programming. Modular systems allow flexible, scalable solutions to be applied to complex production environments in line with customer needs.
Many exhibitors will be dealing with 3D image processing. Among the interesting technologies will be products using photomix detectors, laser triangulation, deflectrometry, and white-light interferometry. 3D-Shape’s KORAD product family features flexible sensors for contactless measurement and capture of surface characteristics with high degrees of accuracy.
Alongside the exhibition, the 4th EOS Conference on Optical Instrument Manufacture with take place, attended by those at the very forefront of optical technology design and research. Describing laser manufacturers and optoelectronic component suppliers as ‘toolmakers of light’, the organisers have already sketched out the trends that will likely feature strongly at the Munich event: increasing miniaturisation and precision, along with ever more finely graduated diversification of the spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared; Quantum Cascade Lasers, driven by developments in semiconductor technology; and energy efficiency.
Accompanying the show will be a three-piece Lecture Series dealing with application issues. Focusing respectively on pico and femtosecond lasers, CW and fibre lasers, plus high-performance diode lasers, the panels will offer an overview of the latest beam source developments. On the final day, ten BMBF Research Associations will explore recent innovation in ultra-short pulse technology.
Another welcome initiative at the 2015 Laser World of Photonics that has already attracted significant attention is the proposed ‘Start-up World’ – a dedicated marketplace for young, up-and-coming companies. Providing a competition for funding and support for companies with products in the market implementation phase, the event will serve as an important showcase for start-ups as well as increasing knowledge transfer and innovation potential within the sector.
The best trade shows perform a leadership role for their sector, celebrating and fostering innovation, representing the diversity of the sector yet challenging participants to focus on key common issues. The signs are that Laser World of Photonics 2015 will live up to these high expectations.
Laser World of Photonics 2015 will be held in Munich, Germany, on June 22-25.