Technology Focus Surface Technology

Surface Technology

In “Surface Technology,” Fraunhofer ILT focuses on developing laser-based technologies for the efficient processing, functionalization and finishing of surfaces.

Thin films are used for electronic applications, for wear and corrosion protection as well as for optical and structural applications. Since lasers have specific advantages – they are locally selective, have inline capability as well as placing a low thermal load of the workpieces – they open up many new possibilities in designing new production processes and components in which functionalities can be integrated.

Component condition data, such as thermal and mechanical loads, can be collected by special sensors and form a basis for predictive maintenance, big data and AI approaches in production. Fraunhofer ILT combines various manufacturing methods, for example, to equip printed lightweight components with appropriate sensors. By combining Laser Powder Bed Fusion with digital printing and laser post-treatment processes, the institute is paving the way for the production of “sensing” components.

Thanks to their functionality, structured surfaces contribute, for example, to minimizing friction in combustion engines, to increasing efficiency in lighting systems or to improving the activation of chemical processes in fuel cells. Surface properties also play an important role as a quality feature of products. 

3D texturing of freeform surfaces with an USP laser.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
3D texturing of freeform surfaces with an USP laser.
Compressor rotor cleaned with laser radiation, two blades are in the uncleaned state.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
Compressor rotor cleaned with laser radiation, two blades are in the uncleaned state.

Ultrafast lasers enable high-precision structuring of almost any material or selective thin-film ablation. This way, structure sizes down to the sub-micrometer range can be generated. Thanks to high-power ultrafast lasers and multi-beam processes, it is possible to scale structuring processes and significantly reduce processing times.

Polishing with laser radiation offers advantages over conventional grinding and polishing. When fast-moving axis systems, modern scanner technologies and adapted laser optics are combined, complex 3D surfaces cab be processed automatically at high speed. In addition, the institute is developing efficient laser processes for cleaning, decoating or marking components of various types.

Laser heat treatment is used to selectively functionalize components and semi-finished products, for example, to improve wear protection, minimize distortion or improve local formability. Here, new technologies can contribute to optimizing the energy absorption of crash-relevant components or to preventing component failure due to brittle fracture.

Targeted photochemical functionalization in medical technology or biophotonics can be used, for example, to control the wetting properties and cell adhesion properties of surfaces. One goal of the institute’s research and development in this area is to integrate such modifications into shaping processes such as 3D printing.

Fraunhofer ILT offers customers from industry and research laser-specific solutions that incorporate materials, product design, construction, production equipment and quality assurance.

Find out more about our range of services on the websites linked in the blue box.

Selected Press Releases

More information on research and development at Fraunhofer ILT