Welding thick metal has historically been a labor-consuming and time-intensive process that couldn’t be avoided. The bulk of projects that required this process called for armies of highly skilled welders who worked day and night to make production schedules – if you could find them. Now manufacturers in the shipbuilding, pressure vessel, military vehicle and other heavy industries have the ability to not only increase the speed and quality of heavy plate welds but have the opportunity to automate these processes as well.
With the ADDere laser hybrid wire welding system, single pass welding of up to 25 mm thick material can now be achieved. Welds this deep would have typically taken several passes after complicated edge prep with conventional processes. The laser process can produce welds like these at speeds up to 60 inches per minute with a 50kW laser power source and ceramic backers.
“We’re on the edge of a new era in heavy fabrication,” says Scott Woida, president, ADDere. “If the system merely made a single pass weld instead of the three or four that conventional MIG would do, this would be a great technology,” “But doing single pass and at 1.50m per minute with a much smaller HAZ? Now you have the potential to change industries.”
This performance is made possible by increases in laser technology combined with ADDere’s ability to control and focus its power. Using a proprietary closed loop feedback control developed from our 3D metal printing systems, ADDere is able to take the guesswork and fine tuning out of the thick plate welding process. The feedback system monitors the keyhole depth and shape of the weld bead hundreds of times a second to maintain weld consistency and quality. The control system also looks ahead in the process to take into account weld gap conditions and make adjustments. With ADDere’s control process, the weld gap need only stay within a millimeter of width for the process to be successful. Using power sources greater than 50kW, the laser system can accommodate even greater gaps.
Further, the laser hybrid process makes thick plate welding easier both pre- and post-weld. Plates don’t have to be chamfered or cleaned before welding. This cuts down on weld prep time and the labor it would require. Due to the inherent ability of the laser to highly focus its energy, the process also offers a far more concentrated heat affected zone (HAZ) than multi-pass MIG systems. This concentration of heat greatly reduces dimensional and metallurgical part deformation – and the time it takes to fix these issues.
The ADDere laser welding process lends itself well to automating operations that were previously thought impossible. The laser weld head can be easily integrated onto an industrial robot and programmed like other robotic welding systems. Automated laser welding cells could be nearly infinite in size allowing for even the longest welds.
“We feel the groups that adopt this technology will have a considerable competitive advantage over others in the market,” says Pete Gratschmayr, ADDere vice president of Sales and Marketing. “The reasons are simple: the weld quality is far more consistent and welding speed is greatly increased. It’s not hard to see how this technology could be highly disruptive to a number of industries.”
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