Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT

Fraunhofer ILT - Partner for Innovations

We light up new paths: Whether car manufacturing, photovoltaics, aircraft industry or medical engineering, the most diverse branches of industry are profiting from the brilliant power of the laser.

As a tool, light is indisputably an innovation driver. Germany occupies a top position worldwide in the field of optical technology and is holding its own as the world leader in laser manufacturing technology. And, thanks to the intensive research it carries out at the cutting edge between science and practice, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has been making its own contribution to this success - for more than 30 years.

Fraunhofer ILT: Opening Up New Perspectives

With 500 employees and more than 19,500 m² net floor space the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is worldwide one of the most important development and contract research institutes of its specific field. The activities cover a wide range of areas such as the development of new laser beam sources and components, precise laser based metrology, testing technology and industrial laser processes. This includes laser cutting, caving, drilling, welding and soldering as well as surface treatment, micro processing and rapid manufacturing.

Furthermore, the Fraunhofer ILT is engaged in laser plant technology, process control, modelling and simulation as well as in the entire system technology. We offer feasibility studies, process qualification and laser integration in customer specific manufacturing lines. The Fraunhofer ILT is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, with 72 institutes, more than 25,000 employees and an annual research budget of 2.3 billion euros.

The Fraunhofer ILT is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, with 69 institutes, 24,500 employees and an annual research budget of 2.1 billion euros.

»Lasers and Optics« – Dazzling Precision

With their greater precision flexibility and power, new beam sources are not only helping to optimize laser production techniques, they are also opening up whole new applications such as laser polishing. For our clients we develop new beam sources, frequency converters and optical components.

© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.

Solid-state and fiber lasers: performance and efficiency

Solid-state and fiber lasers - in both continuous-wave and pulsed mode - are already firmly established in industry, and new application areas are being found for them in the fields of medicine, manufacturing engineering, metrology and research. We optimize all aspects of solid-state and fiber lasers - individual components, oscillators and amplifiers, and even customized systems.

Frequency conversion: broadening the spectrum

By combining lasers and frequency converters in an optimal manner, we can create made-to-measure laser sources. Our customers benefit from efficient and cost-optimized systems that are adapted to suit their specific processes across a wide range of applications.

Getting to the core of optical design

Whether for simple lenses, complex optical systems or multifunctional free-beam optical systems, we have a large number of design methods at our disposal for beam guidance and shaping. Patented solutions for beam transformation and homogenization enable the efficient use of laser beams.

Precision assembly: it‘s all about good connections

It is mainly thanks to their solid assembly that diode and solid-state lasers render such reliable service in the aerospace, materials processing and medical engineering industries. We implement economical customized solutions for bonding and soldering laser components. Our innovative processes enable us to assemble optical components such as lenses or crystals at low cost yet with high precision and stability.

Diode lasers: strong and compact beam sources

Diode lasers are characterized by their compact dimensions and low cost. We focus on the automation of assembly techniques, the enhancement of output and beam quality as well as the optimization of beam guidance and shaping systems.

Ultrashort-pulse lasers: impulses for science and industry

For more than fifteen years now, the Fraunhofer ILT has been conducting research into the development, characterization and application of ultrashort-pulse lasers - those with pulse durations in the region of pico- and femtoseconds. In the high-power field we have already broken numerous world records with fs-lasers. We support our customers in the design, simulation and prototype construction of beam sources, and in the adaptation of applications.

»Laser Material Processing« – Tapping Potential – Systematically

Whether in aircraft construction, electronic or medical engineering, laser-based materials processing offers numerous benefits in a whole range of industries. Our goal is to exploit this potential even further - in close cooperation with our customers and partners.

Laser additive manufacturing: repair beats replacement

Even the most minor damage to high-tech machine components can necessitate their full replacement - and that can be
costly. In branches of industry such as turbine production it makes sense to consider repairing the damaged component
using laser additive manufacturing. This high-precision deposition of material with the aid of a laser allows worn areas to be
coated and repaired to exactly fit the required contour.

Cutting and welding: adding value

State-of-the-art production systems must deliver high productivity and flexibility at low cost. Cutting and welding by means of laser technology are already well-established processes. Our combi-head allows you to carry out both these processes without retooling and in any sequence. The result for our customers is a hitherto unmatched level of economy, flexibility and quality.

Individualized mechanical engineering

The development and qualification of highly productive laser processes are accompanied by systems engineering support to provide integrated process monitoring and control. Our tailormade prototype production units and manufacturing solutions make it easy for our customers to implement laser technology.

Microprocessing: faster, finer and more precise production

The advantage of laser processes in microtechnology and nanotechnology is that they offer a high degree of processing selectivity and have a minimal impact on component integrity. Lasers are an ideal tool for electrical engineering and photovoltaic applications. High-speed drilling for modern cell concepts or efficient laser processing in battery technology are only two practical examples of technologies we steadily develop.

Polishing: laser processes for complex geometries

Automated laser polishing of metal, silica glass or plastic is another milestone of our R&D activities. Compared with conventional - usually manual - polishing, this process can help achieve much higher productivity with complex geometries such as tools, implants or free-form optical elements.

»Medical Technology and Biophotonics« – Individual Solutions for a Long Life

New types of therapy, individualized early diagnosis and better chances of recovery: Together with our practitioner partners we are at the cutting edge of research in the fields of medical engineering, biotechnology and applied medicine.

Personalized implants from the 3D printer

Tailor-made implants at the touch of a button: Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is an additive process we have developed that enables the tailored production of implants using medical image data. Mimicking similar processes in nature, SLM employs biocompatible materials to generate joint, bone and dental prostheses
or temporary supporting implants.

Light through the keyhole: microsurgical systems

Minimally invasive surgery is the key to patient-friendly therapies. In cooperation with our partners in clinics, we are developing new systems and techniques for use in surgery, tissue therapy and wound treatment, including medical laser systems with adapting wavelengths, miniaturized instruments and new, laser-based approaches to treatment.

Precision for medical engineering and biotechnology

Nanoanalysis and picoliter analysis, minimally invasive surgery and point-of-care diagnostics all require high-precision instruments, new optical analysis techniques and low-cost, disposable microfluidic components. To this end, we are developing innovative production techniques for joining, structuring and functionalizing materials with nanometer accuracy and without any influence on the material.

Bioanalysis and clinical diagnostics: exact results

Detecting binding processes between molecules in minimalvolume samples, tracking the process of protein crystallization, identifying pathogens in microfluidic chips - all these tasks can be carried out quickly and sensitively with laser measurementprocedures. High-throughput laser spectroscopy can be used to collect molecule-specific information. With the aid of antibodies, it is possible to mark and detect toxins with high sensitivity in foodstuffs or the pathogens that cause blood poisoning.

Biofunctionalization: cell analysis and organ replacement

Going forward, cell-based analysis systems will form the foundation for functional medical diagnostics and made-to-measure drugs. Biofunctional surfaces are key to the development of artificial organs using patients‘ own cells. For that purpose we use powerful technologies: nanostructuring, photochemical surface modification and micro-scale topography modification.

»Laser Measurement Technology and EUV Technology« – Proper Testing is the Key to Success

Measurement technology is required in a wide variety of application areas - from industry and bioanalysis to medicine and environmental technology - and our material analyses using laser beams are opening up new dimensions in inline process control and quality assurance.

Production quality: faster checks with laser

Defects in metallic materials can result in defective components. The inline measurement of physical and chemical properties makes for much more efficient process control. Within the shortest possible time, a laser can identify a material or generate a precise map of its chemical structure, detecting for example oxide inclusions. That enhances transparency, cuts testing times, speeds up feedback to the process and ensures consistently high product quality.

Recycling by laser: an exact analysis of materials

Quite apart from the environmental aspect, the recycling of scrap metal has economic advantages, as the growing scarcity
of resources pushes up their price. A more exact chemical characterization means a higher degree of reusability. This is
where laser-induced breakdown spectrometry, a highly reliable measurement procedure, comes into its own. A brief laser
impulse creates a plasma on the surface of the metal, the light from which contains information on the concentration
of the individual elements. This procedure can also be used to efficiently characterize and sort raw materials as well.

Measuring coating thickness - even during operation

Thin zinc coatings are used to protect steel sheets against corrosion. Laser beams can penetrate these coatings, measuring their thickness inline on a moving production line with a high degree of precision. Wafer-thin coatings of light elements such as boron, carbon or even magnesium can also be measured using laser beams. The automated analysis offers an exact classification and evaluation of the material, thus shortening the response times for process control.

Plasma technology: EUV light for unparalleled precision

Pulsed, dense and hot plasmas emit light of extremely short wavelengths. Together with laser technology, these plasmas form another core competence of the Fraunhofer ILT. In a pulsed discharge, a powerful electric current is used to heat matter to temperatures of several thousand degrees centigrade, triggering an emission of short-wavelength light. Typical application areas for these light sources include EUV lithography, to be used in the production of semiconductors of the next generation but one, and x-ray microscopy.