Research on the theory and key technology of laser processing and system optimisation for low carbon manufacturing (LASER-BEAMS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Eng


Laser based processing technologies have great potential to bring new innovations to manufacturing while at the same time disrupting traditional energy and carbon intensive processes. Lasers enable selective processing and unique but complex material energy beam interactions. However, there is currently a limited understanding of the energy intensity and carbon emissions associated with the use of lasers in manufacturing. New knowledge, understanding, process models and resource metrics, and industry case studies are urgently needed to optimise laser materials processing technologies for low carbon manufacturing. This project brings together leading groups from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and Chongqing University (CQU) in China, and The University of Manchester and Loughborough University in the UK, to co-create the scientific base and technologies for low carbon manufacturing with lasers. The proposal has a focus on laser cleaning and welding reflecting areas that are distinctive in the UK and China and have the greatest potential for bringing new innovations to growing areas of industry as well as greater potential for impact on low carbon manufacturing.

Planned Impact

The vision of this research is to become internationally leading in technologies for low carbon manufacturing with lasers and to consolidate the dominant international position for Manchester in laser cleaning and HUST in welding.

Successful delivery of this project will:
(i) bring new laser cleaning and laser welding innovations to high value manufacturing in both the UK and China. The project is supported by three key industrial partners, providing pathways to impact for the research.
(ii) demonstrate to industry and the world that low carbon manufacturing methodologies can be used to transform manufacturing while also bringing in new novel innovations to laser manufacturing processes,
(iii) develop the first data sets, energy and production rate process windows for all laser material processing technologies, and (iiii) support industry in bringing new innovations to automotive and high value manufacturing, using resource efficiency as a competitive and environmental advantage.

This research fits with and complements other major research activities in the area including the UK Future Photonics Hub which provides manufacturing for the next-generation of photonics technologies and the Future Manufacturing Hub in Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes, which includes powder-based manufacturing technologies. The project will complement the Manchester based £230 million Henry Royce Institute which is a UK national centre for research and innovation of advanced materials as well as exploit its state-of-the-art research facilities.

The project will deliver a transformative low carbon manufacturing system optimisation approach to key technologies for manufacturing in the future and in a digital age.


10 25 50
Description The project is on-going and the full impact is to be realized. An early impact has been the development of a joint framework for energy analysis and scope 2 emissions of laser based manufacturing. This will enable comparison between lasers systems and benchmarking laser processing to other manufacturing processes.

We have applied this framework on university laser machine systems, and on industrial machines in the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), and in a few companies.

The framework for modelling energy and scope 2 emissions for the laser processing system has been published and disseminated to end users and machine developers through a joint workshop with the Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU).

So far we have developed the manufacturing capability for selective removal of hard coatings from cutting tools by lasers while preserving the surface integrity (quality) . This will enable re-use of cutting tools in a circular economy.

We have also developed novel surface textures to improve the performance of re-coated tooling. These have evaluated this in cutting tests and will provided the proof of concept evidence base for end users.

We have modelled the life cycle impacts of laser assisted tooling re-use and compared this to tool recycling and landfill options. We have identified and quantified the life cycle benefits of tooling re-use.
Exploitation Route Work with Teer Coatings has evaluated the effectiveness of laser cleaned and recoated tooling. This can provide a proof of concept for end users.

Surface textures developed could be considered for industrial application.

Energy consumption and Scope 2 framework can be used on other manufacturing systems and by industry

Chinese collaborators have developed low carbon emissions recommendations for laser welding in the automotive industry.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Education,Electronics,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The project has demonstrated laser cleaning of coated tools using different lasers and enabling superior control of quality. The process has been optimised and favourable residual stress has been obtained. Unit process scope 2 emissions for laser cleaning and for different lasers have been evaluated using research based lasers, preproduction lasers at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and industrial lasers. The findings have been disseminated to industry and end users through the Association of Industrial Laser Users.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Low-carbon Laser Manufacturing Industry report
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or improved professional practice
Impact The communication gives users the knowledge to evaluate their energy consumption and scope 2 derived emissions.
Description Laser surface engineering for improved osseointegration
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2022 
End 03/2023
Title Energy analysis of laser welding 
Description Energy measurements and weld measurements for autogenous laser welding experiments 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Energy analysis of laser welding 
Description Energy measurements and weld measurements for autogenous laser welding experiments 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU) Manchester Loughborough Event: Low-Carbon Laser Manufacturing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Laser manufacturing in industry has a challenging future ahead as we see the need to implement strategies to reach net zero by 2050. At present the transition to net zero manufacturing is optional, but this is rapidly becoming essential. Companies need to pursue innovations in manufacturing technology while developing their knowledge and capability to compete in net zero and low carbon manufacturing. This requires companies to innovate under low carbon manufacturing. The seminar discussed sustainable manufacturing and the innovations we have been working on at Manchester and Loughborough in laser cleaning and welding and to understand how to model and reduce energy consumption and Scope 2 emissions while maximising productivity. Scope 2 emissions are indirect greenhouse gas emissions for the energy used by organisations. Companies have to quantify, aggregate and reduce Scope 1 and 2 (direct and indirect) emissions for net zero manufacturing.

Research undertaken by The University of Manchester together with Loughborough University and other partners was presented in this webinar.

Objectives and workshop learning outcomes
1.To provide a methodology for analysing the energy consumption and carbon emissions for laser material processing.
2.To provide participants with key innovations in laser cleaning and welding and ideas for rapid processing with reduced energy consumption and emissions.
3.To road test and seek stakeholder input on the energy and emissions modelling framework.


14:00 - 14:10 Lewis Jones (Loughborough University)
Chair Introduction to session and online poll

14:10 - 14:15 Lin Li (University of Manchester)
Welcome from Professor of Laser Material Processing

14:15 - 14:25 Paul Mativenga (University of Manchester)
How to make manufacturing sustainable in a net zero economy

14:25 - 14:35 Nick Goffin (Loughborough University)
Understanding your laser system: ways to improve energy efficiency

14:35 - 14:45 Jinglei Ouyang (University of Manchester)
Innovations in laser cleaning and how to model and reduce energy and emissions

14:45 - 14:55 John Tyrer (Loughborough University)
Laser safety in a net zero context

14:55 - 15:05 Jinglei Ouyang/Paul Mativenga (University of Manchester)
Reusing cutting tools in a circular economy: lifecycle assessment and the role of laser cleaning

15:05 - 15:15 Elliot Woolley (Loughborough University)
Discussion: Concluding poll and questions

15:15 - 15:20 Lewis Jones (Loughborough University)

The seminar led to suggestions for recommendations and work on emissions monitoring in industry.
The seminar increased the awareness of Scope 1 emissions in laser processing the link to laser safety.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Environmental Sustainability Away Day and the Manchester 2038 zero carbon target 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was an away day for Department Heads of Environmental Sustainability to consider the Manchester 2018 zero carbon challenge and environmental sustainability. The presentation was on energy demand for equipment and the key considerations that influence energy use profile and hence scope 2 emisssions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Industry engagement and pathways to impact for laser decoating of tooling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Engagement meeting with Dr. Hailin Sun Technical Director and Sue Field of Teer Coatings lLtd to discuss research progress and pathways to impact and low carbon laser decoating research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Laser Annealing of Thin-film Photovoltaics - approach to low carbon processing of PV 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact "Laser Annealing of Thin-film Photovoltaics"
It seems counter intuitive that the manufacture of photovoltaic panels can be so energy intense, that they need to be installed for a number of years before they generate net energy: A technology, which promises to form part of a bright renewable energy future, holds a dark secret.
CdTe-based thin film solar cells currently represent one of the fastest growing PV technologies. However, the current post-deposition annealing treatment is an energy intensive step of the manufacturing process leading to energy payback times of the order of 2-3 years. Substituting the hot CdCl annealing process for one that utilises flash annealing via laser promises to deliver significant improvements not just in terms of energy, but also product design and manufacturability.
This talk will consider the benefits of laser annealing for thin film processing and describe the use of holographic optical elements (HOEs) for laser beam heat flow control. These HOEs have been designed using COMSOL to create simulations of various laser beam profiles that demonstrate the benefit of laser beam shaping for thin film annealing processes. I will discuss how heat transfer simulations were used to predict the effects of different laser irradiance profiles on the annealing process thermal cycle to influence the experimental design and predict optimal laser irradiance profiles. Specifically I will describe variations in power and process speed on as-deposited and MgCl2-treated close-space sublimated (CSS) CdTe samples.
In terms of the manufacturing industry, the implications of laser annealing in PV production will be considered and how this research will now extend to more broadly consider low carbon laser processing as part of a major new UK-China project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019