Digital Manufacturing of Industrial Lasers

Academic Institution: Heriot-Watt University

Academic Supervisor: Professor Daniel Esser

Industry Partner: Renishaw PLC

PhD Student: Nathan Legrand Macleod

Start Date: Dec ‘18


This industrial doctorate research challenge is to develop and exploit digitally-enabled manufacturing methods, including laser-based production of micro-optics, laser-welding of glass to metal, and metal additive manufacturing, to design and demonstrate high-power laser sources optimised specifically for 3D additive manufacturing machines.

The laser source in industrial systems dictate the system design and is usually the highest cost component of the system. Mainstream industrial sources, such as high-power fibre lasers, have a major impact on the systems’ cooling requirements, optical designs, architectures, factory floor space and ultimately on production costs.

The UK industry has determined that, in the long term, the cost of industrial laser systems must be reduced by a factor of 5, whilst the efficiency and performance must be increased by a factor of 30, as laid out in the “Laser-based Manufacturing Applications: UK Roadmap-2014.” These significant challenges can be addressed by utilising emerging manufacturing methods, as well as adopting a whole-system redesign to fulfil application-specific requirements.

Therefore, the project aim is to design, develop and demonstrate novel laser systems utilising emerging digital manufacturing processes, with the specific goal of embedding the laser source into industrial powder bed additive layer manufacturing machines. This project aligns with the Scottish & UK’s manufacturing strategies through development of novel technologies for high-value manufacture, investment in SMART manufacturing with eventual productionisation in Scotland, as well as enhancement of the supply chain of UK companies.

This project will be hosted in the fully developed research labs and facilities of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-Based Production Processes (CIM-Laser) at Heriot-Watt University. The last 5 years of significant public and industrial investment in CIM-Laser has resulted in leading expertise and facilities for the laser-based production processes that will be exploited in this project.