In order to protect products from wear, laser cladding is used to melt wire with a laser and apply it in layers to component surfaces. The low component tolerances and short cycle times required by the industry demand a high degree of process stability.
The aim of the project "TopCladd - Adaptive Laser Cladding for Precise Metal Coating Based on Inline Topography Characterization" is to develop a machine-integrated process monitoring system with an adaptive control unit for quality inspection. In the project, the researchers use short-coherent interferometry to implement a high-precision optical measuring system with which the topography of the weld bead can be examined. To integrate the measuring system into the laser cladding process, a new welding head is designed and the existing wire feed system is adapted. The resulting process data will then be analyzed and used for simulation purposes in order to optimize and adaptively design the control unit. In order to be able to test the new system extensively, a demonstrator will be manufactured in the project.
Laser deposition welding with wire has several advantages over the powder-based process: The filler material can be processed more efficiently in wire form. This saves resources and energy and thus costs. In addition, the process is more precise, which reduces expensive and time-consuming post-processing. However, in wire-based laser deposition welding, the coating head, in which the wire feed system and the laser are located, and the material are mechanically joined together. This connection influences the laser process and means that the produced components are often not within the intended tolerances. In order to increase process stability, the laser spot is then usually enlarged, making the heat-affected zone larger and thus affecting more material than necessary.
The researchers hope that the project will enable them to stabilize the process of wire-based laser cladding by automating it independently of the operator and the filler material used in the wire.