Original Date: 03/08/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Laser Free Forming of Structures
Over the years, the Applied Research Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University (ARL Penn State) has led the way in laser free forming technology and continues to apply this process on different shapes by using various alloys. Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, the ARL Penn State has been developing laser processing and equipment to refine laser free forming technology. The goal is to establish faster deposition rates than those currently achieved. The use of laser free forming provides greater material homogeneity as well as higher mechanical properties than those found in a typical casting of the same material. There is also more uniform corrosion and cavitation resistance. The work at the ARL Penn State has been devoted primarily to titanium free forming of large (up to one meter dimension) structures.
One material currently being examined is nickel-aluminum-bronze (NAB). NAB has been shown to exhibit significant improvement in its microstructure when the material is laser free-formed. This material has many applications and is commonly used in sea water piping, fittings, bushings, sleeves, and propellers. NAB’s resistance to corrosion, cavitation, and biological fouling make it a primary material for use in the shipbuilding industry. Large components, such as propellers, are generally fabricated from castings and exhibit significant in-homogeneity due to the chemical variations and cooling rate differences of the cast material. In addition, porosity, cracks, and voids are not visible during the manufacturing process, and can only be detected using extensive nondestructive inspection. However, even this procedure does not always reveal the flaws which can cause a component to fail during operation.
Laser free forming of various materials has many applications throughout industry, and the ARL Penn State is developing many of them. As this technology continues to evolve, it will become a more commonly used process.
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