European Project Focuses on Sustainability and Digitalisation

The laser processing group at the Manufacturing Technology Centre has joined forces with 13 research organisations and leading companies across Europe to design and deliver the next generation of laser texturing systems.

The SYNTECS project is driven by sustainability and digitalisation principles to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity, and aims to increase the uptake and industrialisation of the technology among European manufacturers.

Component surface treatments offer a valuable way of improving the end results in areas such as roughness, scratch resistance and microbial resistance, and have been successfully used in manufacturing for decades. However increased industrial demands for more complex, customised and better performing components have resulted in a growing need for multi-functional surfaces.

These are typically achieved by modifying surface chemistry and surface topography, requiring multiple surface treatment processes which can be inefficient, inflexible, environmentally damaging and non-transferable. Laser surface texturing techniques provide an alternative technology to achieve functional surfaces, but the full potential of the technology is limited due to the scanning technology and the digital architecture used.

MTC laser processing technology manager Tian Long See said the SYNTECS project will address these challenges by developing a versatile, low-cost laser texturing approach to generate surfaces with multi-functional performance responses, combining the two most promising scanning techniques – direct laser writing (DLW) and direct laser interference patterning (DLIP) into a single module.

“The hardware development will be supported by a sophisticated digital design module which will accelerate the design and optimisation of functional surfaces by considering the sustainability aspect of the component during the design stage. This will enable greener manufacturing fit for the future,” he said.

Supported by funding through the European Union’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme for research and innovation, the project consortium will develop a fully integrated versatile laser texturing system that reduces design and production time with a “right first time” approach through a holistic design for a surface engineering module and in-situ inspection. The platform allows end users to test run the functionality obtained through laser surface texturing on their components, which significantly reduces risk and cost.

The project will also reduce the amount of component testing required through a knowledge data management system combing computer-aided design and predictive artificial intelligence to shorten the design cycle and enhance the sustainability of the component and manufacturing process.

Laser texturing has a wide range of applications in sectors such as aerospace, medical, food and drink, power generation and tooling. The SYNTECS project is focusing on specific end-use applications including low friction and anti-bacterial properties through injection moulding processes for the automotive industry, improving adhesion for representative orthopedic implant geometries as well as improving thermal efficiency for graphics processing units.

The project runs for three years, ending in November 2025.

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