MTC engineer wins funding for laser research

Manufacturing Technology Centre principal research engineer Dr Sundar Marimuthu has been awarded a prestigious UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship. Marimuthu, part of the laser processing team at the MTC, has secured a grant of £1.5m over four years to develop next-generation laser-based manufacturing processes for processing composite materials.

Most existing laser-based manufacturing technologies are for metals and alloys, and are incompatible with composites. Marimuthu will develop two laser-based technologies into fully-fledged manufacturing solutions, underpinning the large scale industrialisation of advanced composite solutions.

The first of these technologies will be a waterjet-guided laser process for cutting, drilling and machining composite materials. Secondly, Marimuthu and his team will develop a solution based on ultrashort pulsed lasers. While the capability of ultrashort pulsed laser machining is proven using low-power lasers for a limited number of niche applications, its low material removal rate limits its viability in the wider manufacturing sector. To address this issue, the MTC and its partners will be developing a high-power ultrashort pulsed laser machining process that will offer productivity and quality in line with industrial requirements.

Skills and technologies developed through this fellowship will support UK industry to exploit the widespread innovation of composite materials in a variety of fields, including zero-emissions transport. Marimuthu says that the two emerging laser technologies – waterjet-guided lasers and ultrashort pulsed lasers – have the potential to transform the use of advanced materials in UK industries.

“The exploitation of these laser technologies will have a significant impact on the ability to machine advanced materials which are essential to develop zero-emission transportation, a key aim in meeting the net-zero ambitions of the Government.”

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