Manufacturing & Industry 4.0

Innovations in manufacturing and the advent of Industry 4.0 rely heavily on new developments in laser technology, optical fibers and sensor technology. Photonics delivers on all of the above, which is why PHAPPS week is a must for manufacturing companies wanting to stay ahead of the curve.

Lasers: efficient, sustainable and low-cost manufacturing
Lasers are one of the most widely used photonics tools. They are ideal for manufacturing strong lightweight constructions, such as wind turbine blades or crash-safe car chassis. But also the production of batteries, fuel cells and solar cells requires laser technology. And every semiconductor chip today is manufactured using optical lithography, a form of laser technology.

Sectors that benefit most from the product qualities, innovation and lower cost of lasers are energy conversion, electronics, hybrid materials, lightweight construction, mass costumisation and rapid manufacturing, print technology and product marking.

Innovations in photonics laser technologies increase the efficiency of a range of devices, such as pholtovoltaic (solar) cells and energy storage devices. The latter are a key ingredient in the electric cars of the future. Another advantage of lasers is that they are more sustainable, using less energy and producing less chemical waste than other manufacturing processes.

Photonics: key technology for smart factories
Industry 4.0 – also called the smart factory or the industrial internet – is seen as the next innovation phase in manufacturing. Combining data connectivity, sensor technology, speed and artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0’s mission is to create smart, highly efficient factories where autonomous machines will do almost all of the work. Yet Industry 4.0 would be nowhere without photonics.

Photonics provides smart factories with optical fibres for high-speed, reliable data communication, fibre lasers for production and sensors for intelligent feedback. One of the most promising developments is the ‘smart laser’, that understand what material it processes, how the process develops and when it is finished. Smart lasers are highly flexible and can adapt to changes in the material, such as shape, reflectivity, thickness and orientation.

VSCEL is an innovative laser that drives and enables the advancement of fast-growing digital technology markets, such as high speed data transmission, 3D recognition, optical sensors and digital industrial thermal processes. Philips Photonics has discovered how to manufacture VCSELs in high volume and quality.

Examples of Photonics in Manufacturing & Industry 4.0

Philips succeeds in mass producing advanced VCSEL lasers
VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) is an innovative laser technology that drives high speed data transmissions, 3D recognition, optical sensors and digital industrial thermal processes, while significantly reducing the size of sensors and energy consumption in data centers and thermal industrial processes. Philips Photonics has succeeded in mass producing VCSELs, making the technology widely available for the first time.

The mission of the Philips project was to bring VCSEL production to the same level of maturity as the LED industry. Global revenues for the VCSEL market currently stand at several hundred million, and are expected to swell to above $1 billion in 2022.

Prior to the project, VCSELs were only manufactured in small quantities, with largely unautomated processes. Now, Philips and its consortium partners have successfully demonstrated the capability to manufacture VCSELs to the same standards as other high volume semiconductor components. Read more