Laser micromachining innovations in Trentino, Italy
Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region is well known for its expertise in mechanics and mechatronics. Of Trentino’s entire manufacturing industry, 800 companies – employing nearly 10 000 people – are active in the mechanics sector. Driving this sector’s success is a deep-rooted commitment to innovation as well as training the next generation of leaders in mechatronics – a commitment exemplified by the Polo Meccatronica innovation hub.
" Our main objective was to develop innovative processes and, consequently, to go ahead with the production of real components. "
Polo Meccatronica is a network of companies, research centres and educational institutions contributing to the social and economic development of manufacturing in Trentino. Within Polo Meccatronica, people involved in manufacturing, training, and research can collaborate and drive forward mechatronic engineering projects that combine IT, electronics, mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics and sensors.
The co-location of start-ups, colleges, university departments, research centres, and industrial accelerators, supported by high value-added services offered by the Trentino region, creates ideal conditions for creating and testing innovative processes and products. For example, the Kirana project used Polo Meccatronica’s unique environment to incubate and develop its laser micromachining process.
Laser micromachining for the future
Kirana came to Polo Meccatronica with the objective of developing and testing innovative laser micromachining processes that could eventually be brought to market. Through its collaboration with Polo Meccatronica, Kirana was able to acquire the expensive machinery and equipment needed to develop a state-of-the-art prototype system capable of performing a number of complex laser micromachining processes, such as drilling tiny holes just a few microns in diameter.
With the system up and running, Kirana then worked on improving already-existing techniques as well as developing new processes, such as precision laser cutting, surface structuring, ablation of thin films, micro-incisions, micro-laser milling and unconventional laser marking.
In some cases, Kirana had to design specific equipment. For instance, it had to assemble a special workstation capable of handling the new laser micromachining techniques being developed. The team had to continuously adapt the workstation as the techniques evolved. This led to an increasing production rate.
From regional to multinational
According to Kirana team members, the project’s success lies in the fact that the company is now selling micromachining processes to other companies and organisations. The company’s diverse range of laser-based solutions allows it to select the most appropriate system for each customer’s needs. Furthermore, its innovative processes have allowed the company to develop competitive services for specific target markets. As a result, it has quickly expanded to the international market. The project is now cooperating with a number of multinationals and research centres of excellence such as the CERN institute in Geneva.
The company’s laser micromachining processes provide a competitive advantage in emerging microtechnology sectors such as microelectronics, micromechanics, automotive, aerospace, and energy. The highly innovative yet very specific services that Kirana has developed are also contributing to Trentino-Alto Adige’s reputation as an important micromechanics hub.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “New start up financed with the Seed Money Fund managed by Trentino sviluppo - Kirana s.r.l. (Rovereto)” is EUR 100 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 52 000 through the “Autonomous Province of Trento” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.