Lasers are ideal tools for localised surface modification, since they can perform versatile surface treatments with great precision, controlled heating, low heat input (and therefore with low distortion) and fast cycle time.
Laser surface engineering such as hardening, cladding and alloying, with its high processing speed and minimal thermal effects on the underlying substrate (because of its precise control of heat input and material addition) is a technique highly suited for customising surface properties and localised repair of damaged parts.
The laser's ease of automation and robotic manipulation capability also makes laser surface engineering very suitable for repair activities in extreme or remote environments, such as under water or in areas with radioactive contamination. A summary of some of the advantages of using lasers for surfacing engineering is as follows:
A chemically clean light source delivers precisely controlled energy to localised regions.
- Fibre optic beam delivery systems and robot manipulation capabilities enable the process to be easily automated and provide remote access to the component.
The low heat input process gives precise control of geometry and composition of the modified material.
Laser beam energy profiles can be tailored to an application, to allow extremely rapid processing, with minimal or no thermal effect on the substrate material.
High processing speeds can produce refined and novel microstructures in the surface region.
- High process precision allows the possibility of near net shape processing with tailored properties.
Laser surface engineering is rapidly developing as new and more cost-effective lasers, advanced laser optics and control systems become available. The compact and energy efficient direct diode and fibre lasers, for example, give higher process efficiency, making them more attractive for integration into a manufacturing line. The development of new beam forming optics and beam monitoring systems also enable the process to be controlled in real time, to suit different industrial applications.