Heraeus Noblelight’s humm3 flash systems: improving sustainability with composites heating

2 mins read

Founded in 1979, Noblelight (now Heraeus Noblelight) has been a pioneer in specialist photonic solutions since inception. We asked the company a few questions about composites in manufacturing.

Give a short background into Heraeus Noblelight Ltd?

Originally with three employees, we started by developing “long life” laser excitation lamps for various industrial markets. In 1987, Noblelight joined the Heraeus Group, a global technology provider with a rich history spanning over 160 years.

In the 2022 fiscal year, the Heraeus Group, listed in the FORTUNE Global 500, achieved £24.8bn (calculated using average 2022 exchange rate, €1 = 0.8528 GBP£) in revenue with approximately 17,200 employees across 40 countries.

Today, our flashlamps find applications in diverse areas such as aesthetic treatments, industrial laser, composites heating and UV disinfection.

Tell me about the development of your products, solutions and services?

In the past 15 years, we have developed automated flash lamp manufacturing processes, receiving the prestigious Queen's Award for Innovation for this work. This led to unique engineering expertise in designing and manufacturing flash lamp systems.

Our flashlamp's broad band spectral output, combined with our optical design and power supply knowledge lead us to develop complete flash system solutions (humm3, Flexe3 and Bluelight Flash). These systems operate in a broad range of application areas from high-speed packaging disinfection to advanced composite heating.

Additionally, we manufacture Heraeus PID lamps at our Cambridge site, which are used in security and environmental sectors for detecting volatile organic compounds to explosives. The demand for PID lamps is rapidly increasing from global legislation changes to improve air quality.

What project have you recently worked on and in what sectors?

Our flagship humm3 system is in use around the world in the development of carbon and glass fibre reinforced composites parts for the aerospace, automotive and the energy sectors.

Projects include the single step production of hydrogen pressure vessels, pipes and components for automotive, aerospace and energy sector applications.

Can you explain details of one particular project that you have worked on?

Heraeus Noblelight partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield to investigate automated manufacturing of composite hydrogen pressure vessels. Using filament winding, carbon-fibre reinforced thermoplastic composite tapes were wound onto a plastic tank liner by a robot system.

The humm3 heating technology melted the tapes, whilst maintaining tape tension to ensure strong layer adhesion and consistent tank geometry. The project focused on achieving good adhesion between the first composite layer and the liner, without thermal degradation.

Additionally, the robot trajectory was fine-tuned to avoid clashes between the heat source and the part. Two demonstrator parts were successfully manufactured with optimized heating parameters for structural integrity and fast production speeds.

Is sustainability an important consideration on projects that you work on?

Sustainability drives demand for Heraeus's humm3 composite heating system, as it enables weight reduction in vehicles, leading to improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Thermoplastic parts are now preferred over thermoset composites because they can be manufactured in a single step without energy-intensive curing.

This not only saves energy, but also reduces production time and costs. Additionally, thermoplastic parts can be recycled, something that is impossible with thermoset parts, addressing the growing need for sustainable manufacturing as production volumes increase.

Generally, is the demand for composites on the rise?

Composite demand is increasing across many sectors, most evidently in aircraft manufacturing. The composition of aircraft is changing to include more composites, up to around 50% in today's Boeing 787s.

Furthermore, composites are finding new applications in mass-produced components for trucks, vans, buses and everyday cars. Emerging sectors like urban air mobility are also relying on composites for their high-performance lightweight structures.

Do you see future opportunities in the composites market for Heraeus Noblelight Ltd?

There is a great deal of demand, which is expected to rapidly grow for the innovative composites heating solutions. humm3® is a very powerful, controllable and safe solution for thermoplastic composites material processing.

Our humm3 technology is poised to play a crucial role in empowering manufacturers to unlock the full potential of thermoplastic composites - driving innovation in their fields.

Visit www.heraeus-noblelight.com for more.