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On Friday 16th September, a delegation of 7 AOG researchers made their way to Hampshire for a visit of the UK branch of NKT Photonics, one of the world's leading companies in ultrafast, high power and supercontinuum lasers. 

From Left to Right: Manuel Marques, Julien Camard, Lucy Abot, Rene Riha, Adrian Fernandez, and right Sacha Grelet

The initial plan was for NETLAS PhD Student Sacha Grelet, who spends his research time between NKT Photonics Denmark and Kent University, to travel on his own and collect a laser for his research project. 
Sacha suggested to involve the rest of the AOG members and the Optica Student Chapter to arrange a company visit, which turned out to be a great idea! 

The visit started by a tour of the production lab given by Burly Cumberland and Tom Strudly, respectively Senior Engineering Manager and Senior Optical Engineer in the Ultrafast Fiber Lasers department at NKT Photonics UK. The Southampton division is mostly focused on the development and production of ultrafast lasers. We were introduced to their new Kanban production process: when an operator starts the assembly of a new laser module, they pick up components from dedicated bins placed over their workstation. When a first bin becomes empty, a second one is brought forward and an order is triggered. For a given component, the number of items to order is correlated to the lead time, which, as Tom mentioned, has greatly lengthened for electronic components. 

After that, we visited the test labs, where lasers are tested for extreme temperature and pressure conditions in environmental chambers. Mechanical resistance is also tested both on site (resistance to shock) and in another company (vibration assays). 

For the next step of the tour, we were shown the R&D lab, where critical cavity alignments are optimised. Temperature changes can lead to variations of a laser's emission properties such as its repetition rate, so water cooling is used in some devices to ensure optimal temperature stability. 

During the last hour of the visit, we gathered in the meeting room where Agata Witkowska, senior optical engineer, gave us an overview of the branch's Aerospace and Defense activities, including high energy laser for weaponry applications, LIDAR for wind measurement or GPS-free fibre-based positioning. We then engaged in fruitful discussions about interactions between academia and industry, European collaboration and gender gap in science.  

Thank you NKT Photonics for accommodating our visit! We left Southampton with a laser in the boot and the sentiment of a day well spent! 

From Left to Right: Manuel Marques, Rene Riha, Ramona Cernat, Sacha Grelet, Adrian Fernandez, Lucy Abot, and Julien Camard

Post Written by: Julien Camard

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