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LIA's 2011 LAM Workshop Gains Momentum

Photonics.com
Mar 2011
ORLANDO, Fla., March 21, 2011 — The Laser Institute of America’s Third Annual Laser Additive Manufacturing Workshop in Houston drew 170 attendees and 25 vendors last month. Since the workshop was introduced in 2009, attendance has risen each year.

This year’s conference focused on laser-additive manufacturing in a broad range of applications: new cladding techniques for components repair and general manufacturing, powder specifications, turbine repair, selective laser melting technology, and maximizing return on investment.

Leading LAM practitioners like GE, Pratt & Whitney, Alstom, Caterpillar, Hardchrome Engineering and the US Navy gave attendees a look at successful efforts in laser cladding, prototyping and in situ repair.

Keynote speaker Minlin Zhong discussed China’s embrace of LAM for development and production, detailing that nation’s efforts in research and systems produced and noting the more than 50 companies providing cladding services. The Chinese government, for example, has launched a national remanufacturing program.

“There are still a lot of new things presented at the conference which had not been addressed at the two previous LAMs,” said general chair Paul Denney, senior laser applications engineer at Lincoln Electric in Cleveland. “The number of companies presenting on their interests and applications helped people realize that there are a number of success stories out there. There were also new technologies that may have an impact on the industry — Alabama Laser’s efforts with hot-wire cladding, induction heating-cladding from Fraunhofer, and [University of Cambridge professor] Bill O'Neill's efforts on supersonic laser deposition, to name a few.”

The workshop was geared not only to showcasing the latest laser cladding applications but also to using those applications to boost profitability by trimming manufacturing costs. Texas has been the site of all three LAM workshops because of the state’s critical role in the oil and gas, aerospace and agriculture industries — all of which derive major benefits from LAM, including: 

    • Caterpillar is undertaking extensive efforts in remanufacturing with laser cladding. The firm worked on 600,000 pounds of hardware a day with more than 115,000 pounds of cladding in 2010 at its facility in Fargo, N.D. The company is also investigating the use of laser cladding to increase the life of mining and construction equipment. 

    • Fraunhofer IWS uses induction heating in front of its cladding operation, allowing for higher deposition rates and lower-power (and lower-cost) laser systems. The firm believes it can achieve deposition rates of 30 kg per hour with 10 kW in laser power by combining induction heating with high-deposition nozzle designs and optics, said Dr. Eckhard Beyer, executive director. 

    • GE Global Research is exploring LAM and direct-laser sintering for fabricating parts and prototypes in the broad range of industries GE is involved in, especially in aerospace. 

    • Hardchrome Engineering illustrated its success in using developments in LAM to benefit customers, particularly with in situ laser-clad repair of steam turbine blades for power plants.

“Companies are realizing that it may be better to use lasers to shorten [production, prototyping and repair] time and lower the cost to produce functional prototypes,” Denney said. “It is also a technology that can be used for extending the life of very high value items.”

“Word of mouth from previous attendees is what is bringing more people to this conference,” Denney says. “Many of the people I spoke to talked to someone who had been and heard about the presentations and thought that it was a good idea to attend.”

“Many of this year's attendees were companies looking to utilize and expand their use of cladding technologies,” said Bill Shiner, sponsor committee chair and vice president of industrial markets at IPG Photonics in Oxford, Mass. “The papers were very well attended right up to the conclusion of the conference. The vendor exhibits were very active and lasted longer than the allotted time due to interest. The overall opinion was that the conference has now reached the level where it will continue to grow on its own momentum.”

Organizers said the fourth LAM Workshop in 2012 might feature a special addition – a visit to a laser-cladding shop for those who have not seen the process in action.

For more information, visit: www.lia.org


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