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Most efficient additive manufacturing systems for the aeronautical and petrochemical industry

Most efficient additive manufacturing systems for the aeronautical and petrochemical industry

Additive manufacturing is based on the use of laser cladding technologies which offers numerous benefits in production processes in the railway, aeronautics, petrochemical and automotive sector.

However, the cost of process development and the high dependence on highly skilled operators are constraints that have discouraged industry from embracing this technology so far

With the aim of overcoming these difficulties and making these technologies more accessible to the market, the research project Cladplus, in which IK4-IDEKO participates, seeks to increase the reliability of laser cladding in the aeronautics and petrochemicals sectors among others.

The initiative, called Cladplus, framed in the program Collaboration Challenges of the Spanish Government with a budget of 2.8 million euros, also includes the participation of the Basque machine-tool companies Danobat (project leader) and Soraluce, in addition to the Seville-based company Uniláser and the Galician Technology Center Aimen

The project, which started in 2014 and ends next year, undertakes to develop monitoring mechanisms to secure the reliability of laser cladding, an additive manufacturing and part repair part technique used to restore components and produce corrosion and wear resistant coatings and prototyping.

At present, laser cladding can lead to minor variations that could cause microstructural defects with possible adverse effects on the operation of parts.

In addition, the cost of the process is quite high due to the specifics for each type of part and the fact that it must monitored by highly skilled operators.

The project focuses on applications of high mechanical properties, sensitive to chemical corrosion and subjected to high temperatures. Examples of such applications are the repair of blades used in the aeronautical sector, the coating of valves and repair of shafts in the petrochemical industry as well as the restoration of glass injection moulds.

The main technological innovation of the Cladplus project lies in the fact that it addresses the technologies necessary to overcome difficulties as a whole, such as the cost of process performance and the high dependence on highly skilled operators.

IK4-IDEKO's contribution

Cladplus counts on the consolidated experience of the manufacturers and technology centres that form the consortium, in terms of knowledge of laser technology and mechanisms used in industrial manufacturing.

Specifically, IK4-IDEKO designs and develops a vision-based mechanism for geometric analysis of the paths followed by the laser cladding process.

The technology centre will also develop laser cladding nozzles together with the participating companies.

In addition, it participates in the development and implementation of a closed control system, in the performance of pilot tests in monitoring the process and in the analysis of signals with the aim of establishing the rules that govern the control process.

The Elgoibar centre, together with the rest of the technological partners, is responsible for the implementation of pilot tests of the cladding process, as well as the subsequent characterization of the tests

IK4-IDEKO also has a leading role in correlating the data obtained in monitoring and characterisation of the process against the parameters used, and participates in the pilot tests for laser cladding on real components.

Furthermore, Danobat will focus its efforts on working with the aeronautical turbine blades, Soraluce on coatings on the inside of valves for use in the petrochemical industry, and Uniláser on repair of shafts and restoration of glass injection moulds.