ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe, Fraunhofer IWS and LIMO: Targeting steel surfaces

Dortmund, (PresseBox) - "On the surface," the course of events in Dortmund have been positive since November 2014. ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe, the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology IWS, and LIMO have initiated development work on a new laser technology that the partners will use to improve the properties of steel strip surfaces. The collaboration is part of a research project by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and is scheduled to be completed by 2017.

In November, the Dortmund-based LIMO Lissotschenko Mikrooptik GmbH launched its largest joint research project to date, which will see the company contribute €3.6 million to the BMBF's OSLO project. This four-letter German project acronym stands for "surface-functionalized steel strip materials using laser surface treatment in a continuous wide-strip process".

Together, the Duisburg-based ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG (TKSE), the Dortmund Project Group of the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology (IWS) and LIMO will research how the properties of ferrous steel strip materials can be influenced in a targeted manner by laser surface treatment in a continuous in-line wide-strip process. Materials experts refer to it as functionalizing: To provide steel with better corrosion protection, for example, the laser will uniformly heat the steel's surface layers over the entire strip width. But corrosion protection is not the only benefit of this alloying or surface melting process: Thanks to uniform heating, it is also extremely energy-efficient and environmentally friendly - since the laser only heats the surface, rather than the entire volume of the wide strip.

The success of the OSLO project hinges on the laser system and beam shaping unit for the short-time heat treatment of the coated steel strip scheduled to be used in the demonstration machine at TKSE in Dortmund under conditions closely simulating real-life production (process speed: min. 50 m/min, strip width: 300 mm). "To enable these types of short-time surface treatments, a laser system never before available anywhere in the world has to create a length-scalable, uniform and extremely thin line of light," says Dr. Jens Meinschien, Vice President Innovations Management at LIMO. "To meet this challenge, we're engineering a powerful 35 kW semiconductor laser featuring sophisticated beam shaping and high beam quality." Using this new LIMO laser system, the OSLO project partners aim to develop a new type of laser surface treatment, and possibly bring it to maturity for an eventual series production.

For LIMO, it's about more than just the biggest joint research project in the company's history. Dr. Jens Meinschien adds: "Under the moniker 'photonics industry meets steel industry', this collaboration between big industry, small business and research delivers a synergy effect that will help secure Germany's role as a center of steel manufacturing. LIMO plans to use OSLO to expand its position as a manufacturer of tools of light for large-area surface processing and is looking to position itself as a long-term supplier of the steel industry."

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LIMO Lissotschenko Mikrooptik GmbH

Since its foundation in 1992 LIMO Lissotschenko Mikrooptik GmbH has been known as one of the leading companies in laser beam shaping. At LIMO's headquarter in Dortmund an international team of more than 240 specialists develops, manufactures and sells innovative micro-optics and laser systems. We are the only company worldwide whose core competence uniquely combines optics design with laser systems and materials processing know-how. This makes LIMO an important and reliable partner for customers in various industries, e.g. in semiconductor manufacturing, flat panel display production, medical equipment manufacturing or in the automotive industry, who are looking for unique customer-specific solutions.

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