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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N03368X/1
Title: Beam-shaping for Laser-based Additive and Subtractive-manufacturing Techniques (BLAST)
Principal Investigator: Mills, Dr B
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
M-Solv Ltd Oxsensis TRUMPF Laser UK Ltd
Uni Hospital Southampton NHS Fdn Trust
Department: Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 November 2016 Ends: 31 October 2021 Value (£): 861,709
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Sep 2016 Eng Fellowship Interviews Sep 2016 Announced
02 Jun 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 1 and 2 June 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Digital Micromirror Devices (DMDs) are the heart of the image-projection technology used in the modern cinema projectors. They are a 2D array of several million, micro-sized, computer-controllable mirrors, where each mirror can flip on its axis many thousands of times per second. When combined with a RGB light source, such as in a cinema, the device enables the projection of full-colour videos onto a screen. However, in recent years this projection technology has moved out of the cinema and into laboratories across the world, where it is assisting scientists in many research fields.

At the Optoelectronics Research Centre, at the University of Southampton, scientists have been using this DMD technology to generate micron-sized intricate patterns of laser light, for the development of a range of novel subtractive (removing material) and additive (adding material) laser-based manufacturing processes.

In this 5-year project, the team will be working with a wide range of industrial and academic partners, who see the potential for new and exciting manufacturing processes, as summarised below:

SPI Lasers, a UK fibre laser company: A major advantage of using DMDs for shaping a laser beam is the extremely high speed at which light patterns can be generated, updated and modified. The team will be combining fibre laser technology with DMD technology to enable extremely high-repetition-rate beam shape and energy control, for applications in a wide range of manufacturing areas including the marking of high-value objects.

M-Solv, a UK laser-integrator: Here, the team will be testing and optimising their technology using a wide range of industrial manufacturing lasers, and will develop a range of novel additive manufacturing processes for the micro-scale. The outcome will be additional manufacturing capability for UK companies.

University Hospital Southampton: Recent scientific results have shown the ability to control the specialisation of human stem cells (e.g. to bone or to muscle) via intricately designed 2D surface structures. Working with Prof. Richard Oreffo, a founder of this field, the team will be using their technique to produce a range of bespoke surface-textured substrates that will enable biologists to further understand and control stem-cell specialisation for applications in regenerative medicine.

University of Southampton: Metamaterials are a family of materials that offer amazingly unusual properties, such as the ability to bend light (for use as invisibility cloaks) or even slow it right down. However, scientists have yet to develop a cost-effective method for making such devices on centimetre or larger size-scales. The team will be investigating whether the DMDs combined with high-repetition-rate lasers can speed up the process and enable cost-effective manufacturing of cm-sized devices.

Oxsensis, a UK company that develops sensors for extreme environments: The team intends to develop new manufacturing processes that will enable a new range of sensors for applications in industries such as Aerospace, Power Generation, and Oil and Gas. Specifically, the team will be using their recently demonstrated ability to laser-machine very accurately and rapidly in diamond, in order to develop new techniques for making sensors in a range of difficult-to-machine materials.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk