9 November 2006

First of its kind ultrafast laser system installed at Cardiff University's MicroBridge facility

Oxford Lasers has recently installed what it claims to be the most advanced ultrafast micro machining system of its kind at the Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC), Cardiff. The PicoLase1000 system will be a key enabling technology at the MicroBridge facility, offering unique flexibility in laser processing with the ability to machine virtually any material to microscale resolution.

The £7.5 million MicroBridge facility at the MEC, Cardiff University, was officially opened in October 2006 by Welsh Assembly Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, Andrew Davies who said that MicroBridge would ‘further enhance Wales' reputation as a world centre of expertise'. The MEC, founded in 1996, already has an award winning reputation for design, development and manufacturing engineering and is set now to move forward as a major player in the field of nano technology where experts have predicted a global turnover of a trillion dollars by 2015.

PicoLase1000 features a picosecond laser system with 532nm and 355nm harmonics and 12 axis motion control. Amongst its innovative capability is a dual beamline, automated trepanning system and special micro milling routines for ablating complex structures. A confocal depth sensor with 10nm resolution is incorporated for accurate profiling of milled structures and a high magnification microscope for precise alignment tasks. Excellent beam quality makes it possible to focus to spot sizes of less than 1 micron within a practical working distance. Unlike other laser systems, the PicoLase1000 drills holes and cuts profiles with excellent burr-free edge quality at very high speeds.

Cardiff's MicroBridge facility will use the PicoLase1000 to complement its other manufacturing equipment and in particular to enable product miniaturization and development of new manufacturing platforms for the next generation of micro systems based products.

Funding for the MicroBridge project was provided by the DTI, the Welsh Development Agency and other industrial partners, including Oxford Lasers. Oxford Lasers Industrial Division Director Martyn Knowles says "We were happy to contribute to such a worthwhile venture and will be working closely with the MEC throughout the 5 year project to develop and support picosecond laser micro processing. We will be working with the MEC staff to provide specialist training in micro and nano technology."

"By producing such small components, manufacturers can save on materials, reduce component count and reduce labour - dramatically lowering overall costs and adjusting market pricing to become more competitive and increasing profits," said Frank Marsh, the MEC's Marketing Director. "The benefits from this jump in technology will be almost immediate and will have implications across a range of sectors, including communications, optics and the automotive industry."

Contact: Alan Ferguson

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