Laser Peening is a laser-based process which permits to improve the lifetime of metallic parts that are subjected to severe mechanical stresses. This technique is a laser-induced plasma that creates a shockwave which, when propagating through the volume of the treated part, creates a compression stress which in turn increases its fatigue life. This process has emerged a few decades ago as a key technology to overcome parts failures as it has given full satisfaction in terms of performance.as it does not bring foreign object debris (FODs).
While laser peening has been historically relying on very expensive multi Joules lasers, low-energy laser peening involving few hundreds of milliJoules beams emerged in the 2000's. Such a process paves the way for a more flexible use of the laser peening technology and that is why in last few years Europe Technologies has been involved in the shot-peening and ultrasonic shot-peening since its creation and brings to the project its field expertise to the process and residual stress characterization.
This fibering breakthrough is an important milestone in the deployment of the laser technology in industrial processes such as laser peening. In fact, such a technology completely removes free-space propagation from the laser source to the focusing optical head.
This has the following main advantages:
Imagine Optic and Europe Technologies expect to benefit from PULSATE by cooperating with the mentor from MTC (Manufacturing Technology Center) who, based on their rich experience in the field, helps guide the next actions while the project unfolds.
As a matter of fact laser peening can for example be employed in a hybrid process combined with additive manufacturing in order to enhance the parts hardness not only on their surface but also in their volume. Other processes can also be targeted as high-energy injection into optical fibres can be beneficial for LIBS, Laser Ultrasonics and Laser Cleaning. These three processes could enhance the manufacturing quality of key parts in many fields.
The project is of great interest as it will bring Imagine Optic and Europe Technologies a clearer insight on what capabilities can their developed technologies bring to end users in aerospace, naval or energy industries. Based on this rich PULSATE experience, both companies will gain an important scientific knowledge as the laser peening optimized parameters will be better known.
In addition to that, the experiment will bring a more thorough knowledge of the markets of interest but also help communicate to potential end users the data that will have been accumulated during the project. Imagine Optic and Europe Technologies will add to their current catalogues a new fibered laser peening machine which will open up new horizons to both companies.
Even though laser peening has confirmed its great potential for material fatigue enhancement, it has not been widely deployed so far for reasons ranging from the fact that it is a quite expensive installation to the fact that it still represents a complex process.
Another critical point is the processing speed which will have to be increased in order to meet the speeds that are already obtained with high-energy non-fibered laser peening machines. Therefore, the main challenges seem to be quite clear: try to make the process as user-friendly and as cost-effective as possible.
Continuous efforts are made in order to push the limits of our technology. In fact, higher energy transmission through longer smaller-core and more flexible optical fibres is our main objective. Of course, the ultimate goal of this is that our technology meets the standards of numerous laser-based manufacturing and material analysis processes.
An interesting vision of what would the future of LBAAM be like would be the merging of different laser-based processes such as Laser Peening, Laser Ultrasonics, LIBS and Laser Cleaning in order to obtain the ultimate material processing and characterization for more robust and lightweight parts.
Alphanov is a technology centre based in Bordeaux, France and acts as an innovator for laser based processes and solutions in close collaboration with industrial partners. With a machine parc of more than 15 laser stations many laser based processes like engraving, drilling and surface functionalization can be realized on complex parts.
The individual solution for each technological challenge is not only based on the best fit of laser parameters like wavelength, pulse energy and focal spot size but comprises a holistic configuration including beam engineering, machine tool handling and control of ambient atmosphere. Alphanov offers their various platforms and expertise to industrial partners seeking photonics based innovation.