Laser consolidation of metal parts, cutting die production method and associated control systems

Highlights

Lasers are the paramount tool for processes such as cutting, welding and additive manufacturing. However, current techniques are limited in their selection of materials, in particular metals, that can be used. The process requires significant post-machining and generates expensive material waste.

Laser consolidation technology promises to address these issues. The new method delivers material on to a surface with one or multiple lasers. It improves the speed and precision of production, and minimizes post-processing and material waste.

To deliver on these promises, advanced laser manufacturing systems require innovative control systems. One such system consists of two interdependent modules that continuously check the actual position of the laser before any action is executed, such as depositing material. This improves precision and reduces waste.

Advanced laser-based manufacturing methods are used in the production of a new cutting die, consisting of a metal base and a sharpened ridge of a predetermined, required shape. The ridge is made by depositing material along a predetermined path and is precise enough to cut a single sheet of paper or laminate while leaving the backing intact.

Laser consolidation advances will increase the precision of produced shapes and significantly reduce the costs associated with today’s laser-based additive manufacturing.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing, or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. This business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID: 10687, 10691, 12220

Market applications

This technology is especially interesting to laser system vendors engaged in high speed and high precision parts manufacturing for automotive, medical devices, security and defense and similar industries

How it works

Lasers have become a paramount tool for industrial processes, such as cutting, drilling, welding as well as additive manufacturing. Most of the laser-based techniques are based on layered manufacturing where a part is built as a series of horizontal layers, each one being formed individually and bonded to the preceding layer. The various processes differ in the way each layer is formed and the types of raw materials used, but the underlying methodology is essentially the same.

For example, laser cladding is a surface modification technique used to create a more wear- or corrosion-resistant surface on metallic components. For the greatest versatility, cladding material is supplied as powder during the process, which is then fed through a nozzle and melted by the laser beam along with the substrate. The sample is traversed in one direction as a single pass. For wider area coverage, overlapping passes are used, usually maintaining the same traversing direction. The laser beam’s incident angle is perpendicular to the surface for optimum energy absorption.

A major limitation of these current methods is an inflexibility in the selection of metals or alloys that can be used. Selected metal powders have to be specially coated with thermoplastic material, significantly increasing material costs. In addition, metal layers need to be machined back to the required dimensions after each laser build-up pass. This adds processing time and creates unnecessary waste of expensive material.

Laser consolidation overcomes these drawbacks and offers a novel method for depositing a layer of material on a surface and delivering a stream of material at a substantially normal angle to the surface. The technology also enables multiple lasers to deliver material to the surface at the same time using this acute angle to create thicker walls in a single pass. Using multiple laser beams minimizes and improves the control of pre-heating and post-heating of build-up, important when materials are sensitive to thermal shock. This new technology also allows for relative movement of the surface and the laser to deliver an even coating of the material, enabling build-up of repeated layers of coatings and creating complex, dense 3D shapes while minimizing post-machining and expensive material waste.

Advanced laser-based manufacturing systems drive the need for sophisticated control systems to maximize the benefits. One such system was developed in order to maximize efficiencies of this novel technology. Two interdependent modules control laser beam and laser beam movement, and the laser control module continuously checks the actual position of the laser before any action is taken, such as depositing material on the surface. The control system effectively controls a system of multiple lasers to increase accuracy and further reduce material waste and a requirement for post-processing.

These advanced laser-based technologies enable production of advanced cutting dies with a metal base and a sharpened ridge, created by depositing material along a predetermined path. Powdered metal and a laser beam move along the path to surface-melt a thin layer of the metal base and fuse the metal powder along the path. When the ridge is built up, harder material may be deposited as a top layer and is sharpened to enable precise cutting. Such cutting dies can be made accurate enough to cut only a single paper or a layer of laminate, while leaving the backing intact.

This method overcomes problems with traditional cutting die processing techniques. Typically, they are made by machining metal away from a metal base to leave a ridge, and then they are heat treated and sharpened. This process is time consuming, expensive, limits achievable shapes and generates significant material waste.

Laser consolidation and associated technologies will increase the precision of produced 3D shapes and significantly reduce the costs associated with laser-based additive manufacturing.

Benefits

  • Significantly increases manufacturing speed and precision
  • Reduces the costs associated with today’s laser-based additive manufacturing methods.

Patents

Contact

To inquire about this technology, please contact:

Peter Banks, Client Relationship Leader
Telephone: 519-430-7020
Email: Peter.Banks@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:
Privacy notice