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October 2005 edition

Laser deposition and airframes

By Robert Scudamore

Robert Scudamore, from research and technology organisation The Welding Institute, presents the case for laser deposition, a form of additive manufacture, which holds great potential for the aircraft manufacturing industry and looks poised to grow in use over the coming years.

Laser deposition is a form of additive manufacture, a broad term given to processes that deposit material on to a substrate in an effort to build single or multiple layers. These layers can be used to protect or clad the substrate. Typically a small number of layers would be used in these cases. Increasing the number of deposited layers can effect the repair of a component, build a feature as in hybrid manufacture, or create a complete part. Laser deposition can use powder fed through a nozzle, powder pre-placed in a ‘bed’, and wire. It can be economically viable if material or traditional processing costs are high. Machining from solid, for example, can be expensive if the majority of a high cost material is to be removed.

Manufacturers take a ‘horses for courses’ approach to additive manufacture. As with welding, there are a number of different options available. Generally these are recognised as being electron beam, laser, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) and plasma arcs. Other deposition methods are available, such as electro-spark deposition and spraying using high velocity oxy-fuel, but they are not suitable for building relatively large or complex shapes.

Laser ....

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