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Laser Beam Welding of Airframe Structures

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Laser welding of aluminium materials for airframe manufacture is growing in interest, and the large aerospace companies are investing more time in this technology in an effort to replace riveting wherever possible.

Laser welding of 2XXX aluminium alloys would be the preferred route, but these alloys can be crack sensitive when welded. It is possible to use lower strength 6XXX alloys for lower fuselage panels, and this material is much easier to weld. Al-Mg-Sc alloys are now being considered for upper fuselage panels where higher strength is required.

TWI has 30 years of experience with carbon dioxide, Nd:YAG and Yb: YAG lasers, and has laser welded a wide variety of aluminium alloys for its customer base.

TWI worked with Airbus in several large collaborative projects to develop laser welding techniques. Airbus further developed the procedures and the technique is now being used in the lower fuselage panels of the A318 single aisle aircraft, the A340-600 dual aisle aircraft and the A380 very large aircraft to replace riveted structures with attendant cost savings.

TWI has carried out confidential project work for several aerospace customers, and worked in several large collaborative projects with Airbus and other partners to develop laser welding procedures for airframe manufacture.

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