Developing improved laser weld technology for SME
The Tailor:Weld project aims to bridge the gap between the need for an affordable and easy to use laser weld technology and the solutions available today. Most existing laser systems are fitted with either a standard process head or a 2D galvanometer scanner – both of which deliver a “standard” Gaussian or “top-hat” energy distribution to the work piece. However, this relatively simplistic energy distribution is not directly suitable for many applications and significant laser welding expertise is required in order to develop acceptable process parameters.
Diffractive optical elements are a robust, simple tool and are capable of producing (virtually) unlimited tailored energy distributions. The aim of the Tailor:Weld project, which started on November 1st 2013 is to develop and demonstrate an innovative laser welding system, that uses simple and robust Diffractive Optical Elements (DOEs), increasing the flexibility and simplifying the application of laser welding and, through that, removing the key barrier to entry for SME fabricators.
The Tailor:Weld project aims to develop:
- Suitable tailored energy distributions for a range of selected applications;
- A validated process method for determining tailored energy distributions for future applications, and
- A (prototype) laser welding head which is capable of incorporating interchangeable DOEs depending upon the requirements of the work piece (e.g. analogous to interchangeable tool dies used in the metal forming industry);
In order to effectively execute the project, the consortium partners will deliver the following objectives in three phases – research, technology development and demonstration.
Figure - Typical example of the benefits of laser welding with a tailored energy distribution compared to existing solutions.
TailorWeld aim will be realized through two critical developments:
- Development of a thermo-physical model, easily accessed through a DOE (diffractive optical element) design tool with a Graphical User Interface (GUI), that is capable of calculating the necessary laser beam energy distribution for a given joint (taking into account common materials and joint geometry).
Allowing simple assessment and adoption of laser welding process.
- Production of a DOE laser welding head module, allowing for quick and simple interchange of DOEs for different laser welding processes, and incorporating process monitoring for Quality Assurance.
Providing a ‘turn-key’ system, which gives the necessary flexibility required by SMEs, whilst requires little (or no) advanced training to operate.
Figure - Overview of the TailorWeld system – showing how a new SME end-user would use the model to then determine a suitable DOE design and then be able to purchase the welding head (or full laser welding system, as appropriate)
The key benefits of the novel TailorWeld system include:
The project is comprised of a transnational consortium, which includes nine partners and is led by the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting (EWF):
- European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting
- VIP Products Maschinenvertriebs GMBH
- Holo-Or Ltd
- Nederlandse Instrumenten Compagnie - Nedinsco BV
- Impact clean power technology SA
- Graham Engineering Limited
- Lulea Tekniska Universitet
- TWI Limited
The use of the “Research for the benefit of SME associations” will ensure the TailorWeld project will be of dedicated benefit for the European industry.