JK Lasers used in composites processing research

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Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has equipped its Photonics in Engineering (PiE) research laboratory with a next generation high power ytterbium fibre laser from JK Lasers (part of the GSI group). The PiE group, based in the university’s General Engineering Research Institute (GERI) now has four industrial lasers from JK Lasers, which are well-suited to pursuing research into welding, cutting, drilling and micro-machining applications. The JK fibre laser complements the existing JK700 series pulsed Nd:YAG laser, opening up new applications in high speed machining of metals and composite materials.

The photonics in Engineering group, led by Dr Martin Sharp, are using JK Lasers’ systems in a wide variety of applications, projects ranging from laser micromachining of polymeric material for the biomedical sector to macro laser processing of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP composites) for aerospace and automotive applications.

Dr Paul French, another founding member of the PiE group, and lead researcher on composites, said: ‘We recognised that if lasers are going to be part of the aerospace industry in the future we must find successful processing parameters for CFRP.'

PiE has procured its own JK400FL system to carry on the composites work, following successful processing trials using a JK200FL, 200W fibre laser at JK Lasers. There are a number of research groups around the world who are investigating laser processing of CFRP using mainly UV laser systems or ultrashort picosecond or femtosecond lasers. The work at PiE is novel in that it is investigating the processing of CFRP materials using a laser source that produces a continuous or modulated laser beam and whose capital cost is a fraction of the more expensive ultrashort pulse lasers.

Dr French reports, 'A number of aerospace companies are excited by the results so far and all with a concerted effort. I am confident we can produce the results that will allow the aerospace and automotive sector to implement the technology on the shop floor. This could be a very important market for fibre laser sales in the future.'

Dr Martin Sharp added that he believed that the powerful control system and fully integrated process tools within the JK fibre lasers, offers a high degree of flexibility for the group's materials processing research and could prove invaluable in demonstrating robust process solutions to industry.