EU project explores laser polymer welding

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PolyBright, an EC-funded FP7 project, is bringing together 18 partners from 9 countries to work on extending the process limits of laser polymer welding with high-brilliance beam sources. The aim of the project is to develop high power high brilliance lasers with new wavelengths between 1,500 and 1,900nm, which are adapted to the absorption properties of polymers. The EC has allocated €6.6m of public funding to this project with an overall budget of €10.2m.

The objective of PolyBright is to provide high speed and flexible laser manufacturing technology and expand the limits of current plastic part assembly. New laser polymer joining processes for optimised thermal management in combination with wavelength adapted polymers and additives will provide higher quality, high processing speed up to 1m/s and robust manufacturing processes at lower costs. Key innovations of the PolyBright project are high brilliance mid-IR-wavelength fibre and diode lasers with powers up to 500W, high speed scanning and flexible beam manipulation systems, such as dynamic masks and multi kHz scanning heads.

The project covers the whole process chain for laser-based plastic part assembly and includes laser companies, optics suppliers, material and processing specialists as well as machine suppliers. The developed machine equipment and the new laser process approaches will be validated by end users from medical, consumer goods and automotive industry.

With this initial step, PolyBright will forge new paths in processing of advanced plastic products overcoming the quality and speed limitations of conventional plastic part assembly. PolyBright will thus open new markets for laser systems with a short-term potential of several hundred laser installations per year and a much larger future market share in a multi billion euro plastic market. PolyBright will hence establish a comprehensive and sustainable development activity on new high brilliance lasers that will strengthen the EU's laser system industry.