High turnout expected for Lasys 2010

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Around 200 exhibitors are expected at this year's Lasys trade fair, according to Thomas Walter, head of industry and technology at Messe Stuttgart, where the event will be held. Lasys 2010 will take place in Stuttgart from 8-10 June and will focus on system solutions in laser material processing. Walter gave details of the upcoming event at the Lasys 2010 press conference, held at Manz Automation in Reutlingen, Germany on 2 March.

Walter commented on 2008's event, the first Lasys held, as drawing people from more than 30 industries, including mechanical engineering, metalworking, electronics, the optical industry, medical engineering, automotive, and the plastics industry, as well as glass, timber, jewellery, and textile industries. This year's event will attract around 25 per cent of exhibitors from outside of Germany. France will be a Lasys partner country and there will be a French joint stand with 19 exhibitors currently registered. Italy and Finland will also have joint stands.

A number of accompanying programmes will run as part of the event, including the 'Solution Center – Meet the experts', which will provide visitors with advice from independent experts from German laser research institutes. There will be a short course on the 'Basics of lasers and laser material processing', aimed at visitors with little or no experience of laser technology. The 11th International Symposium on Laser Precision Microfabrication, a four-day forum beginning 7 June, will run in parallel to Lasys and will aim to promote the exchange between basic research and industrial application in the area of micro laser technologies. The Stuttgart Laser Technology Forum will also focus on the transfer of knowledge between research and industry. Finally, there will be a plenary session on 9 June celebrating 50 years of the laser.

Walter also commented on the state of the global laser systems market, citing a drop in its worth from €6.4 billion in 2008 to around €3.5 to €4 billion, according to Optech Consulting. However, he went on to say that there is hope for the future due to the large variety of industries laser technology is used in.

Along with details on the trade fair, photovoltaics was the main topic of discussion at the press conference, as Manz Automation, the company hosting the day, provides laser structuring and edge deletion systems for thin-film solar modules.

Manz Automation has structuring systems for glass sizes of 600 x 1,200mm to 2,200 x 2,600mm. In his presentation, Dr Claus Kuhn, head of systems cleanroom at Manz Automation, commented that while laser systems have higher initial costs, operating costs are lower than mechanical alternatives and for aspects such as edge ablation or scribing, the laser provides higher quality processing with fewer micro cracks in the substrate. Process accuracy is key and the structuring systems at Manz provide an accuracy of less than ±10µm. Kuhn also said that one of Manz Automation's targets was to integrate different processes in one machine to improve efficiency, so that ablation and cutting are performed with the same laser source, for instance.

Jens Bleher, managing director of Trumpf Laser and System Technology, added in his presentation that new laser technologies such as ultra short pulsed lasers are making new manufacturing processes possible. Picosecond lasers remove material with no discernable heat input producing a high-quality scribe, for instance.

Bleher concluded that it is Trumpf's aim to reduce manufacturing costs of thin-film solar cells, increase their efficiency and raise throughput rates. Laser technology used in the photovoltaics industry will be on display at the Lasys 2010.