Original Date: 03/08/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Repair and Refurbishment of Fatigue Limited Structures
Cladding is a long-standing process used to repair and restore damaged/worn surfaces of high value components. Depending on the area being refurbished, a pre-machining step is required to prepare the surface so that a layer of weld can be applied and machined to the original specifications of the component. The process involves many hours of preparation to ensure that the repair does not distort other surfaces of the part during the welding and final machining processes. By using laser cladding, the Applied Research Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University (ARL Penn State) can apply layers of metal to the part in a much more controlled manner. Distortion during welding is also minimized due to the localized application of heat and cladding materials. Primarily used on steel substrates, laser cladding is accepted and qualified by industry.
The ARL Penn State took this technology one step further. The laboratory expanded the laser cladding’s applicability by tailoring the process to other surfaces (e.g., titanium structures, aluminum alloys 6061 and 7075). Working closely with the Navy’s Keyport facility in Washington, the ARL Penn State developed and demonstrated the successful use of this technology on real components. One application involved repairing the O-ring surface of a torpedo’s aft fuel tank, which would have cost $65,000 to replace. In another case, the ARL Penn State restored the sealing surfaces of four, newly-fabricated forward fuel tanks that were damaged during shipment. Without this technology and its successful application, these components would have been scrapped.
The Keyport facility also acquired a laser system to perform in-house repairs on components of various alloys. The ARL Penn State is supporting the initial laser work cell startup at the Naval facility, and has concurrently developed and qualified processes for repair of other components. These efforts have enabled high-value, torpedo components to be repaired and refurbished. In the past, scrapping was the only alternative since the replacement costs of these items were high due to low volume and time constraints. The successful implementation of this advanced laser cladding technology will continue to expand as more processes are developed.
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