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Laser welding of composites meeting draws a crowd

22 Oct 2013

International speakers at Bristol, UK, event update industry on benefits of laser processing of polymers.

Lasers are increasingly used in the processing and welding of composite materials such as carbon fiber-reinforced polymers (CFRP). Such materials are finding many bulk applications often replacing metals and alloys in applications such as aerospace and automotive manufacturing.

A day-long conference on laser treatment of composites was organized by the UK’s Association of Industrial laser Users (AILU) and held at the National Composites Centre in Bristol, UK. The international event brought together a wide range of interested parties from systems suppliers through academics to industrial end users.

Chairman Paul French of John Moores University, Liverpool, where he helped to establish a composites laser welding research group within the university’s General Engineering Research Institute, introduced the conference.

“Interest in composites has grown greatly over the past decade" he said. "Their properties of high strength to weight ratio and corrosion resistance offer increasingly important advantages in manufacturing; but they can present a major challenge to cutting, drilling and other forms of material processing.

“Lasers offer a unique solution, which has been recognized especially by the aerospace sector. As a result, lasers are finding a growing number of industrial applications, and developments in both laser and material technologies have recently led to a further expansion in this area.”

The AILU workshop gave a broad overview of the current status of both laser technology and composite processing, with presentations from industrial users, researchers and laser manufacturers. Specific themes included: laser processing of polymer composites within the aerospace industry; laser surface texturing of composites prior to adhesive bonding, laser sintering of PEEK for aerospace and biomedical applications; laser welding of thermoplastics; and analysis of the current state of the art in lasers for composite processing.

LZH input

The first keynote address was made by Peter Jaeschke of Laser Zentrum Hanover, whose presentation was entitled Laser Transmission Welding of High-Performance Thermoplastics.

Jaeschke told the conference, “Laser transmission welding has become well established in industry for the joining of unreinforced and short glass fiber-reinforced thermoplastics.

The main benefits of a laser approach are: contact-free technology, 3-D processing capabilities, the opportunity to deliver a controlled energy input very precisely, which results only in a small heat-affected zone.

”Laser treatment of such polymers and materials offers a great combination of high flexibilty and straightforward reproducibility. At LZH, we have been able to optimize development of suitable laser welding strategies adapted for the properties of organic sheets.”

Other presentations

Other presentatios throughout the day-long event included:

Exploitation of laser processing in UK industry – Mike Green of AILU; CO2 laser ablation of damaged CFRP: A GKN Perspective – Paul Saunders, GKN (see separate optics.org article, here); Precision machining of composite materials with Picosecond lasers – Mark Thompson, Coherent; Remote laser processing of fiber reinforced polymers – perspectives for industrial use – Annett Klotzbach, of Fraunhofer IWS Dresden; Process rate and quality estimation tools for laser processing of fibre reinforced polymers – Goncalo Pardal, Cranfield University; Lasers in Composites in the Aerospace Industry – Gary Taylor, Gudel; High Temperature Polymer Development on the EOSINT P800 – Stuart Jackson, EOS; Particulate and gas phase fume produced during laser processing of CFRP – Matthew Leach, University of Hull; and a study of the effect of laser surface processing on bond adhesion for carbon fiber composites – Peter Dickinson, Spectrum Technologies.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Synopsys, Optical Solutions GroupBRD Optical Co., LtdAVANTES BVOmicron-Laserage Laserprodukte GmbHBristol Instruments, Inc.Spectrum Scientific Inc. -  SSI OpticsSacher Lasertechnik GmbH
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