Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news and events from TWI:

Subscribe >
Skip to content

EDGETECT2: Improving Industrial Surface and Edge Preparation


TWI has been working on the collaborative EDGETECT2 project with an Industrial Member company and major construction equipment manufacturer, along with a number of other partners, to deliver innovative solutions for surface and edge preparation on coated steel products used by the agricultural and construction equipment (ACE) industry.

The corrosion of coated steel edges impacts a variety of industry sectors, resulting in costs for in-service repairs, potential warranty claims, and reduced resale value of assets. In addition, rusting can cause staining of surfaces that negatively affect customer perception of brand quality and corrosion pits can cause fatigue to initiate, threatening the durability of a structure.

To solve these issues, EDGETECT2 developed an innovative, mechanised, single-pass laser cutting and edge profiling process to facilitate optimum coating performance. This process can be integrated into existing production methods and systems. In addition, the project exploited cavitation bubbles formed using ultrasound to offer high productivity ultrasonic etching technology for surface preparation in a production environment.

TWI developed and validated the laser optics setup and also used our metrology and characterisation facilities and expertise to underpin much of the research for the project. We were joined in the project by laser cutting provider Laser Expertise, coating supplier Valspar Powder Coatings, as well as technology equipment suppliers Hilsonic and ULO Optics.

Challenges and Innovation

Cutting steel parts during fabrication is often conducted using laser cutting, which, while being productive, can leave deep cutting striations and sharp profiles. These sharp corners can cause the premature loss of protective coatings, often due to a lack of adhesion.

Edges can be manually prepared to avoid this problem, but this is labour intensive and can have health and environmental concerns due to the use of abrasives. Other conventional surface preparation techniques, such as shot blasting, may not offer the required coverage.

As a result of these challenges, the EDGETECT2 project team developed novel laser cutting and surface cleaning solutions to deliver a step-change in the quality of protective coatings. The novel processing techniques were tested and validated to ensure an improvement in edge geometry and surface cleanliness. 


The solutions developed by the EDGETECT consortium included novel laser cutting using ‘multi focus’ laser optics able to deliver single-pass simultaneous laser cutting and edge-profiling energy distributions, with an improved edge geometry for coating applications when compared to conventional laser cutting. Developed for use with existing, commercially-available cutting heads, the project team also developed a stand-alone laser cutting and edge profiling head that could be used as a drop-in replacement for conventional heads. This technology offers ease of use by the market and could benefit other industries that use laser cutting for steel products.

In addition to the laser cutting, surface treatment techniques were investigated using ultrasonic transducers to provide total oxide removal within minutes, while eliminating potential surface damage from traditional ultrasound cavitation. The method used generated cavitation bubbles through ultrasound, with the bubbles imploding on surface to be etched and causing oxides to break, which aids chemical removal.

These solutions were validated on a pilot scale at partner sites in order to investigate the practicalities of implementation in a production environment. This also allowed cost data to be generated and potential issues to be addressed.


Benefits and Outcomes

The project could benefit the multi-billion pound ACE sector and help reduce the millions that are spent on corrosion-related warranty claims. By improving the quality of coated steel edges, the residual values of machines will remain high, providing a lifecycle extension to the hire purchase and leasing of yellow goods, as well as maintaining value for resale.

The benefits of the system include cost savings against time-consuming manual grinding or shot blasting, higher quality and more reliable products, less requirement for machine downtime for coating repair or reworking, and improved safety and environmental conditions.

In addition, because the system was designed to be retrofitted to existing equipment, the EDGETECT2 project’s innovations can be realised without the expense of having to replace existing equipment.

These benefits could be extended to other sectors outside of agricultural and construction equipment to include other industries that use laser cutting, including automotive, shipbuilding, energy and transport.


The Edgetect2 project has received funding from Innovate UK under No 105537