A European photonics research project is working with Bosch on a high power laser system for creating grease-repellent textured metal surfaces on an industrial scale.
The €5m LAMpAS (Laser structuring with Multiscale Periodic feature sizes for Advanced Surface Functionalities) consortium is tailoring sheet metal to several different applications, which could also include plastic and glass.
“We are targeting related use cases: medical surfaces in hospitals, like stainless steel antibacterial surfaces; packaging machines in the pharma industry that need to be disinfected; machines in the food processing sector that need be continually cleaned and where hygiene is paramount,” said LAMpAS project coordinator Prof. Dr Andrés Fabian Lasagni at the Technical University Dresden in Germany.
The structures are designed specifically with amphiphobic properties to repel both water and oil simultaneously. De-greasing is a key requirements in electronics assembly and the team is also looking at this for medical applications.
“The treatment of surfaces with special laser radiation and beam transport systems to improve their antibacterial properties opens up new frontiers in applications. LAMpAS is using high-power ultrashort-pulsed lasers to create a rough micro-topography on sheet metal that will cause liquids to ‘glide’ across the surface, thus, reducing the formation of a biofilm,” said Dr Francesca Moglia, Laser Technology lead in the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC).
The metal surfaces are textured using industrial photonics devices with high-power, ultrashort-pulsed lasers are used in combination with high-performance scanning heads by using a new beam delivery method enabling movements of up to 100 m/s.
“The idea of using photonics or high-powered lasers to create tiny structures on metal is nothing new but has always been too expensive to produce and too time-consuming, said Lasagni. “Our laser system will allow us to treat more than 1 square metre of sheet metal per minute covering a potentially growing market that could reach nine-digit revenues per year in the home-appliance sector alone. With our Direct Laser Interference Pattering (DLIP) – Polygon Scanner head we will be able to treat metal with a 1.5 kW novel ps-laser source, with scanning speeds over 100 m/s.”
At present, the LAMpAS team are focusing their expertise on flat metallic surfaces, and have demonstrated surface textures with a line-like DLIP pattern with a spatial period of 5.5 µm and an average depth of 0.6 µm.
“Anything that requires complete hygiene will benefit greatly from antibacterial surfaces such as hospital and operation environments that must be continually cleaned during surgical procedures.”
The project includes Next Scan and Laser Engineering Solutions in Belgium, Trumpf Laser and Robert Bosch in German as well as EPIC in France and BSH Electrodomesticos and New Infrared Technologies in Spain.
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