Optics and laser components out of the printer

The GROTESK project partners during a meeting. (Photo: Alexander Wolf, iPeG, Uni Hannover)

The 3D printing of glass can enable new optic geometries. (Photo: LZH)

In the future, cooling channels can be directly integrated in laser crystal holders. (Sketch: LZH)

Complete laser systems out of the 3D printer? What sounds like a long way off is the goal of a new research project of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) together with the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), the Clausthaler Zentrum für Materialtechnik (CZM) and the Hochschule Hannover - University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HsH). They want to 3D print at least parts of a laser system. Because this manufacturing technology enables completely new approaches for the production of lasers and for the lighting industry.

The scientists of the innovation network GROTESK want to 3D print optics and optomechanical components made of different materials, such as glass, polymers and metals, ideally in one step. In that way, for example, it is possible to create complex optical geometries or to print holders with integrated cooling channels around conventional components, such as laser crystals.

Rethinking manufacturing
"With Additive Manufacturing we can leave conventional thinking behind. The manufacturing of optics and components can be implemented in a completely different way. We are thus creating new design options for optical transmission paths, housing structures and thermal management ", summarizes Dr. Dietmar Kracht, Scientific-Technical Director of the LZH.

In cooperation with the LUH, CZM and HsH, the LZH will define the requirements for the optical elements, create their design and examine the finished products for their optical, thermal and structural properties.

The project acronym GROTESK stands for “Generative Fertigung optischer, thermaler und struktureller Komponenten“ (generative manufacturing of optical, thermal and structural components). The project is being carried out in the innovation network under the leadership of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, together with the Clausthaler Zentrum für Materialtechnik, the Hochschule Hannover - University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the LZH. The joint research project has a total volume of about 1.9 million euros and is partly financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the State of Lower Saxony.

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Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH)

As an independent, non-profit research institute, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) stands for innovative research, development and consulting. The LZH is supported by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Economics, Labour, Transport and Digitalisation and is dedicated to the selfless promotion of applied research in the field of photonics and laser technology. Founded in 1986, over 170 employees are now working for the LZH.

The focus of the LZH lies on the fields of optical components and systems, optical production technologies, and biomedical photonics. Interdisciplinary cooperation between natural scientists and mechanical engineers makes innovative approaches to challenges from the most different areas possible: from the development of components for specific laser systems to process developments for the most diverse laser applications, for example for medical technology or lightweight construction in the automotive sector. Nineteen spin off companies have emerged from the LZH up to now. Thus, the LZH has created a strong transfer between fundamental sciences, application oriented research, and industry.