One of the trademarks of photonics involves new fabrication routes on the micro and nanoscale. Here, unthought of new functionalities and material properties arise, opening a wide range of application innovation routes. Within the Rocket “SailPro” project (Safe and Amplified Industrial Laser PROcessing) the double potential of under liquid laser material processing is shown.
Under liquid material processing is apt for various structures and functional devices, says Professor Gert-Willem Römer of the research chair Laser Processing (University of Twente), serving as an academic Rocket “SailPro” partner.
Römer: ‘We are now managing the underwater process into detail, by in-depth study within a PhD project performed by Sietse van der Linden. We typically use 10-30 micrometer laser spot sizes with ultrashort (picosecond) pulses, allowing the target material to be minutely removed, without unwanted melting or liquefying side effects.’
Next to processing surface textures, during this under liquid laser process useful individual nanoparticles are targeted out in a highly controllable manner as well. Thus showing SailPro’s twofold potential as a key enabling technology.
The innovation potential sounds attractive to Dr. Helge Bohlmann, representing Rocket SailPro’s lead-partner: microTEC Gesellschaft für Mikrotechnologie mbH, based in Duisburg. Its core-business: micro-3D printed customized solutions, including microfluidics for life science applications, multi and smart material structures, and cost-efficient MEMS. microTEC integrates electronic elements, such as controllers, memory, sensors, active and passive components, and batteries. 3D Chip-size packaging, MEMS production and optical conductors based on UV-curable materials are specialities.
‘The homogeneity of the produced nanoparticles inside the capturing liquid is amazing,’ Bohlmann enthusiastically states. ‘The laser-based process is able to produce very useful nanoparticles. We are able to mix the nanoparticles without agglomeration, opening new application areas. Because under these under liquid production conditions, the nanoparticles are “trapped” within the fluid regime. They are easy to control, more uniform in size and shape, and more suitable for nano-integration.’
Also SME company, based in ’s-Heerenberg in Gelderland/The Netherlands, Veld Laser Innovations BV is involved in SailPro. The processed materials of Veld Laser are traceable in a range of products within industry, medical suppliers and defence, airborne and spacecraft applications for over more than 30 years now. Much of the equipment is developed in-house. ‘For example in optical lenses on the microscale, we can now offer functionalized materials,’ Römer explains.
Also PM BV is involved, based in Dedemsvaart, in the Province of Overijssel in The Netherlands. Specialized in the design and manufacturing of precision linear bearings, frictionless slides and positioning systems, the company is especially interested in processing ceramic layers (SiNi compounds). ‘Here, we can offer additional techniques when conventional milling processes are no longer feasible under microscale conditions,’ Römer explains.
Helge Bohlmann welcomes the multidisciplinary of the SailPro project team in which universities and SME closely collaborate.
‘Though our company is medium-sized, microTEC is used to invest a fair amount of capital and time in R&D,’ he says. ‘For example in micro-3D printing, we serve as a sound co-designing business partner. With the University of Duisburg-Essen, we are used to be involved in projects where technology readiness does not exceed level 4 (laboratory validation) yet. Fundamental issues are important within our technology branche, using micro and nano processing techniques.’
Bohlmann: ‘With the help of the Universities of Twente and Duisburg-Essen plus the SME partners, we can investigate the fundamentals ànd work on the TRL’s in a parallel way. It brings together both worlds. We have lively discussions during the bi-annual progress meetings. I find the cross-border character of extra added-value. The expertise, involved both in the nano particle production and applying new texture functionalities to the target material, are spread evenly over the partners.’
Also partner in the SailPro project, is Particle Metrix (Meerbusch, Germany). Their Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis tool, ZetaView®, is used to characterize several aspects, in one single measurement: particle concentration, size, surface charge and pattern. ZetaView® is a laser-scattered light video microscope with fluorescence potential for the evaluation of phenotypic properties of nanoparticles.
‘Within SailPro, we focus on the specifications of all of our SME partners,’ Gert-Willem Römer of Laser Processing in Twente states. ‘We hope that they will be ready for some first (partial) applications into their product range within half a year.’
Römer: ‘Regarding our SailPro research efforts we consider the characterization and optimization of the laser procedure under fluid conditions, as a product in itself: better insight in the process parameters; working under vertical conditions; and using cameras for process management and controlling the specs. We proactively take into account scalability steps towards series production.’