Digital Photonic Production

  Copyright: © Thomas Kaster

The Digital Photonic Production group conducts research in the area of robot-based Laser Material Processing (LMP). The focus of the group is in the area of robotics on cost-efficient systems, e. g. collaborative robots (cobot) and own experimental kinematics setups (see Figure 1), and in the area of LMP on the processes laser cutting, welding and structuring. However, results of the group can also be transferred to other LMP processes and other

  Costs of a robot-based Laser Materials Processing system Copyright: © Leon Gorissen Costs of a robot-based Laser Materials Processing system.


Cost-efficient robotic systems as handling systems for LMP offer the possibility to open up new users of LMP: craftsmen and small businesses. In the last five years, the costs of acquisition of beam sources have dropped sharply - from about 30 USD / W to 10 USD / W [1].


The cost of a 6D LMP system is mainly based on the following components:

- a 1kW fiber laser, circa 10,000 USD [1].

- a cobot, circa 30,000 USD [2, 3]

- a processing head, circa 15,000 USD

- a cooling system, circa 12.000 USD.

Thus, the total cost of 6D LMP system is in the order of 67.000 USD.

  Process and application diversity of the laser as a tool. Copyright: © Philipp Walderich Process and application diversity of the laser as a tool.

Laser processes

The total system costs, which are high compared to, for example, 5-axis milling machines, are put into perspective primarily by the laser-specific process diversity and sustainability. The laser as a tool allows for a wide variety of processes: Cutting, welding, drilling, ... [4]. Thus, an LMP system can replace not only one, but several machining systems on a shop floor (see Figure 3). Also, laser-based machining processes allow a high variety of machinable materials, some of which cannot be machined conventionally.

Another advantage of LMP is its high potential for sustainable production. Laser-based processes without additional media - e. g. laser structuring - only require electricity and the workpiece for processing. Thus, LMP offers the possibility of CO2-neutral material processing. The geometric and process-related degrees of freedom of robotic LMP systems also offer the potential to optimize processes in terms of sustainability - e. g. minimization of system energy consumption.

  Attained path of a Universal Robot UR5e compared to command path (left) and the resulting specimen during laser cutting (right). Copyright: © Philipp Walderich Attained path of a Universal Robot UR5e compared to command path (left) and the resulting specimen during laser cutting (right).

Advantages and disadvantages of robotic LMP systems

Advantages of cost-efficient robotic LMP systems are therefore: a large machining area, high geometric flexibility, low acquisition costs compared to other LMP systems. Disadvantages of these systems are: Low stiffness, anisotropic behavior of the kinematics and limitations of the control options. These disadvantages result, among others, in a particularly relevant problem: Low trajectory accuracy (see Figure 4). The Digital Photonic Production group is investigating ways to increase the trajectory accuracy of cost-efficient robot-based LMP systems.

Research fields

The research areas of the Digital Photonic Production group are divided into applied research and strategic research.

In applied research, the four enablers of Digital Photonic Production for robot-based LMP identified by the group are investigated: robotic systems, process-specific sensor technology, system- and process-specific algorithms, and control (see Figure 5).

In strategic research, business models resulting from Digital Photonic Production are explored, as well as the topic of artificial intelligence and the impact on and opportunities for laser technology.

  Enablers of Digital Photonic Production. Copyright: © Leon Gorissen Enablers of Digital Photonic Production.

Research projects

The Digital Photonic Production group is active in various research projects and schemes funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (german Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF) or the German Research Foundation (german Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG):

- Cluster of Excellence Internet of Production (IoP): The vision of IoP is to enable a new level of cross-domain collaboration by providing semantically adequate and contextual data from production, development and use in real-time at an appropriate granularity.

- Research Campus Digital Photonic Production DPP: We believe in the potential of laser technology for the future of digital industry. That is why we are forming a novel form of research cooperation and jointly strengthening Germany's innovative power.

- WIR! - LASER.region.AACHEN: The WIR! alliance LASER.region.AACHEN is a funding project of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) that promotes structural change in the region. The production and use of new laser-based production solutions will create sustainable jobs and economic success factors for the LASER.region.AACHEN.


[1] Optech-consulting GmbH, 2020 Laser Market Data – Optech Consulting. [Online]. Available: https://​​/​2020_​laser_​market_​data/​ (accessed: May 8 2022).

[2] Universal Robots UR5 & UR5e | MYBOTSHOP.DE, Universal Robots UR5 & UR5e | MYBOTSHOP.DE. [Online]. Available: https://​​/​Universal-​Robots-​UR5e-​CB5-​OEM-​not-​incl-​Teach-​Pendent-​DC (accessed: Jul. 4 2022).

[3] FRANKA EMIKA PANDA | MYBOTSHOP.DE, 24.900,00 €, FRANKA EMIKA PANDA | MYBOTSHOP.DE, 24.900,00 €. [Online]. Available: https://​​/​FE-​PANDA (accessed: Jul. 4 2022).

[4] J. Bliedtner, H. Müller, and A. Barz, Lasermaterialbearbeitung: Grundlagen – Verfahren – Anwendungen – Beispiele. München: Hanser, 2013. [Online]. Available: http://​​/​doi/​book/​10.3139/​9783446429291