We interviewed Ambroise Vandewynckèle in relation to the AIMEN LASER 2023 Conference.
Ambroise Vandewynckèle holds a dual degree in engineering from France and Spain, as well as certifications as a welding engineer and a metal additive manufacturing engineer through direct energy deposition (DED) with laser by the European Welding Federation. Currently, he is responsible for the advanced manufacturing processes unit in the R&D department of the AIMEN Technology Center. This unit focuses on laser material processing, ranging from microapplications to high-power processes, the development of laser systems, and metal additive manufacturing.
At AIMEN, you carry out various lines of laser technology projects. Can you explain the most prominent projects currently underway?
One very important project for us is the European project PULSATE, which aims to promote the implementation of laser processes in the industry, particularly among SMEs. Within the project, a digital platform has been developed where information about laser technologies can be obtained, and access to specialized services is provided. Any entity can register to offer its services or request services from registered providers.
Another project I'd like to highlight is the European project ADDIFLAP, funded under the CLEANSKY 2 initiative, in which we have manufactured a titanium demonstrator of over one meter using laser additive manufacturing and wire deposition.
Finally, in a completely different field, the European project OPERATIC aims to develop a robotic processing solution for 3D parts of large dimensions using ultrashort pulse lasers. This is an area of great interest for bringing laser surface functionalization to more industrial applications. This project also incorporates developments in artificial intelligence to enhance and streamline process planning and adaptability.
What do you believe will be the next laser application to revolutionize the industry?
Fortunately, we are in a very interesting stage of laser technology development. We are witnessing rapid process evolutions that are generating a lot of interest in the industry.
For example, in recent years, we have seen laser welding become more widely used in the industry in Spain, moving beyond being a process employed in a few sectors such as automotive. The commercialization of sources for manual laser welding is now generating incredible interest in the industry. However, this technology also exposes workers to laser hazards, and improper use can pose safety issues.
Laser technology is also a key tool in the additive manufacturing of metal components, both for powder bed processes and DED processes. These processes are changing how parts are designed and manufactured, and their application in the industry is still in its early stages.
On the technological front, the development of solutions for flexible beam shaping and multi-beam management is revolutionizing the development of processes, both in high-power and micro applications, for example, increasing processing speed.
You coordinate European laser technology projects from Galicia and Spain. Can you tell us about the positioning of our country?What role do we play at the European level?
I believe that, in general, the Spanish community is very active at the European level in research and development projects related to laser technology. While we don't have a significant number of laser technology development companies in Spain, the ones that do exist are actively participating in collaborative projects at the European level.
In various projects, you collaborate with multiple companies. What challenges are you currently facing, and what type of collaborations are you seeking?
In a general sense, I would say that we encounter two challenges in most laser processes: increasing productivity to make the technology more competitive and developing monitoring and process control solutions to ensure that parts have been processed correctly. As the sensorization of processes increases, data handling becomes more interesting but also more complex.
We need to talk about safety in our laser sector. What has been your experience in adopting safety measures in your facilities and laser technology projects?
When we began working with laser technology at AIMEN in 2004, the risk prevention services advising companies typically did not have specific knowledge related to laser technology. In our case, we relied on the English center TWI to identify the risks associated with the cells we were installing. Subsequently, several individuals received training at the Laser Institute of America. Now, we have a laser safety manager supported by a backup and in contact with our prevention service, who must validate any changes to the laser facility's configuration before making that change. This is a matter we take very seriously. We also have mandatory training for all new hires before they can work in laser cells, as well as periodic refresher training.