The primary objective of the Roadmapping exercise was to identify new and evolving manufacturing applications where laser processing may play a significant enabling role, e.g. for high-value-added components and systems and those fabricated from new/mixed engineering materials, or relating to new production techniques. In addition, the aim was to identify relevant areas where research and development would be required to facilitate future laser-based solutions to such production needs, for example in new laser-material process science and technology, new or enhanced laser source development, beam manipulation and delivery, and system integration/control issues. The roadmap must embrace the needs of both UK industry and researchers, including laser-users in manufacturing and those in the technology-supply chain. It could also contribute to the evidence-base for strategic planners and UK funding agencies.
Roadmapping Workshop Conclusions
The priority laser-based manufacturing application areas identified were predominantly around manufacturing techniques that are applicable to a variety of products and markets as follows:
· Additive Manufacturing including Repair;
· Joining materials including both thin and thick, similar and dissimilar materials;
· Surface processing and modification;
The most important underpinning technologies and R&D priorities required to deliver these application techniques were identified as:
· Fundamental laser process science to improve the understanding of laser-material interactions and eliminate the “black art” associated with some current processes;
· Development of better process output monitoring, analysis and control;
· Development of improved and new lasers and laser systems as well as their integration into machines, tools and equipment;
· Improvements of the laser beam delivery and control to enable better manufacturing precision and speed;
· Development of better and more sophisticated, high speed scanners and scanning systems.
To enable inputs from the wider industrial laser community, a Consultation Process was organised, for which the Interim Roadmap-2014 Report plus a focused Questionnaire was circulated by email to more than 120 colleagues in industry and academia. Despite the relatively short response time and the inconvenience of the summer timing of the Consultation, responses from more than 50 colleagues were received before the deadline via a mixture of online questionnaires, presentations and face to face meetings.