North Rhine-Westphalia Innovation Award 2011
Innovation prize of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia 2011 to Fraunhofer Laser Researcher
The 2011 Innovation Award in the ‘Innovation’ category goes to Professor Reinhart Poprawe, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen and holder of a chair at RWTH technical university. With his team he has developed what is called Selective Laser Melting, a technique used to manufacture components – from dental implants and prosthetics to aircraft turbines - in small batch sizes but still at low cost. The award carries a € 100,000 prize.
Dr Poprawe and his team at are worldwide leaders in the field of ‘selective laser melting’, or SLM, a technique which makes it possible to manufacture individualised and complex components cost-effectively in small numbers and on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. The range of components extends from dental crowns and implants to tools, working-example prototypes and automotive spare parts.
The reasons given by jurors for their decision included the wide variety of applications and the huge economic significance of this technology: ‘Professor Poprawe’s work has opened up a market for an enabling technology that is bound to have a major impact on further economic development, with scope for use in an almost unlimited number of applications.’
The Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, Svenja Schulze, has today announced the winners of the innovation prize in each of the three categories, Honorary, Innovation and Young Talent. ‘The Innovation Prize was established by the State of ’, the Minister says, ‘to honour and reward researchers who drive forward progress by using and applying their knowledge and understanding of society and by coming up with outstanding medical or technological solutions’. The North Rhine-Westphalia Innovation Award carries a cash prize of 150,000 euros across all categories and is among ’s major research awards. The award ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister on Monday, 14 November 2011 in Düsseldorf.
Professor Dr. rer. nat. Reinhart Poprawe M.A. (57) has been in charge of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in since 1996. He holds a chair at ’s RWTH technical university. He studied in , and at the in . Having obtained his doctorate in 1985 at , he then went to head a department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in . He is a co-founder of ACLAS GmbH, a laser and mechanical engineering outfit based in the city, and was ‘prorector’ for research, structures and new research entrants as well as deputy rector of RWTH. In 2006 he became a fellow at the renowned Laser Institute of America in , where he is set to take over as President of the Board in 2012.
The SLM technique was patented by the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in 1996 in Europe, the and . Dr Poprawe is the co-holder of a patent family relating to a technique for the manufacture of moulds.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Selective Laser Melting, developed, in the main, by Professor Poprawe and his team, is a way to manufacture functional metal parts by using a laser to fuse metal powders together, layer by layer, from three-dimensional CAD data. The workpieces so produced have very nearly the resilience of conventionally manufactured products.
SLM is also a quick and cost-effective way to manufacture hollow complex shaped components. The layer technique helps keep production costs down, irrespective of batch size and shape.
Areas of application include medical engineering, tool manufacture and the car industry. It is suitable for working-example prototypes, detail parts or small production runs.