Manufactured parts and components are continuously becoming smaller and smaller. This trend towards miniaturized parts can be seen especially in the fields of telecommunications, medical applications, bio-chemistry and the automotive industry. Consequently, economical mass-production technologies for small components are necessary, and micro-molding seems to be the most promising technology. However, in order to downscale the size of molds for micrometer-sized parts with tight tolerances, suitable production technologies are needed.
Currently, the European Project LAUNCH-MICRO is addressing this challenging task by investigating micro-mold fabrication using micro-milling, micro-laser ablation and micro-EDM. Among the research and development topics are aerostatic guiding and bearing systems, nano-resolution positioning systems, in-process tool monitoring, and high performance materials, just to name a few. The goal of the project is to provide prototypes for industrial applications that combine both free-form, high-precision micro-machining with high speeds.
Within this collaborative project, the role of the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) is to further develop laser micro-machining technologies for use in manufacturing micro-molds. A fully automatic, ultrashort-pulse laser micromachining system is presently being engineered and qualified to provide maximum quality, even down to the sub-micron level. As an accompanying measure, the safety of the laser machinery is also being investigated, in particular the filtering dusts and aerosols.
LAUNCH-MICRO is aiming at providing European tool and component manufacturers with a higher degree of competitivity in the field of micro-manufacturing. Although this project is principally directed towards micro-molding tool fabrication, application sectors are widespread. LAUNCH-MICRO's consortium consists of 28 partners from six European countries. More information is available at: http://www.launch-micro.org.
Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
Tel.: +49 511 2788-151
The Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) carries out research and development in the field of laser technology and is supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Verkehr).
Illustration caption: Example and details of a microstructure manufactured within LAUNCH-MICRO using ultrashort laser machining