Digital Photonic Production

The research campus Digital Photonic Production

The research campus Digital Photonic Production (DPP) enables collaborative research between various different partners from science and industry under one roof. The research focuses on the use of light as a tool in the industrial production of the future. Core elements of the research campus in Aachen are a collaborative, long-term research strategy, the joint use of infrastructure and an open innovation approach.

© Fraunhofer ILT Aachen, V. Lannert 

How is the research campus making a difference?

The challenge German industry is currently facing is to fulfil customer-specific product requirements while creating cost-efficient product design and ensuring a minimum batch size. Due to its high levels of precision and flexibility, digital photonic production – the use of light and laser beams as a tool in production – is a promising solution to this broad range of challenges. That is why the research campus DPP is dedicated to the area of digital photonic production, pursuing its vision of producing high-quality customised parts and components from digital data by means of laser beams, irrespective of part geometry.

The Digital Photonic Production innovation ecosystem is being created at the research campus DPP based on this vision. As a result, the research campus DPP represents a new form of long-term and strategic cooperation between university, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and industry. A trusting and open culture of communication and cooperation is the basis for this intense collaboration.

Another special feature of the research campus DPP is its organisational structure. The research activities are grouped in a matrix-like way into the three competence areas of digital, photonic and production and into the two application areas of additive production and subtractive production. Following an agile management approach, the resources from the competence and application areas are allocated by joint sprint teams based on demand during two-week sprints which take place every six months. The outcomes and know-how produced by this approach are available to all partners.

What is the main focus of the research campus?

High-precision, flexible and digitally connected tools for the production of customised and complex products will be the make or break of industrial production in the future. As a tool, light can be dosed and moved through space and time more precisely than any other. A laser beam is the only tool that “works” as quickly as a computer “thinks”. The final goal for the partners from science and industry working under one roof and across disciplines is to find solutions for the entire production chain, following the paradigm of light-based, digitally connected production: “from bits to photons to atoms”. This is the idea that the partners are exploring at the research campus DPP with a special focus on possible applications in mobility, healthcare, energy and sustainability. Examples of practical applications include laser-based production of functionally and resource-optimised metal parts straight from digital data by means of 3D printers, or the inscribing of fine structures on large functional surfaces with special lasers known as high performance short-pulse lasers.