New laser applications for the aerospace sector

LASIT – OCIMA and AVIO working together to create the future

To increase the efficiency of aeronautical engines and comply with pollution regulations, it is necessary to use fuel-oxidizer mixtures as close as possible to the ideal stoichiometric ratio or to use innovative fuels. In both cases, flame temperatures and flame lengths are reduced, making them closer to the walls of components containing combustion products.

Even the most high-performance superalloys cannot guarantee adequate mechanical strength, so it is necessary to protect the components with coatings made of metal matrix or ceramic composite materials.

To ensure adhesion of the coatings to the metal substrate, adequate preparation of the substrate is necessary. The most common treatment cycle in the industrial and aerospace sectors consists of a costly treatment that has a high environmental impact. Another problem is processing speed, as current systems use short-pulse laser sources with low wattage or long-pulse sources with powers up to kW. The former have the disadvantage of long treatment times, while the latter produce a significant amount of melt. Therefore, these systems are not well-suited to the needs of the aerospace industry.

Altcap intends to design and build an automated production cell based on short/ultrashort pulse laser technology for cleaning and creating specific textures on metal substrate surfaces, making them capable of accepting coatings of different materials. The application concerns the treatment of cobalt-based superalloys (such as HA188) used in the aerospace field, which requires a coating consisting of a first layer of metal matrix composite (called BOND Layer) and a subsequent layer of ceramic matrix composite (called TOP Layer).

DSC05027 New laser applications for the aerospace sector
DSC05071 New laser applications for the aerospace sector

The project brings innovations in the following areas:

Environment and safety

Replacing a process that uses large quantities of powders and energy with a process that does not use working media and is more energy efficient.

Digital

Replacing an essentially analog process with a completely digitized one capable of self-management without human intervention.

Automation

Replacing a manual process with a completely automatic and feedback-controlled one.

Adaptive system

Introduction of the component detection, selection of the processing program, and process monitoring concept.

Open, multi-configurable system

Through the replacement/integration of components, it can adapt to different types of processing and products, even different from those in the aerospace sector.

The LASIT Project

  1. Test campaign to define laser type and optical setup to use based on the result and cycle time
  2. Creation of dedicated software to create a specific pattern
  3. Integration of Laser-software-motors with axis system made by Ocima
  4. Fine-tuning of the processing system and software development

Due to the nature of the application, it was not possible to use normal laser marking techniques, and it was necessary to implement a different management of mirror movement and therefore of pulse distribution. In particular, mirror movement is managed to stop the laser beam for a certain Δt (estimated to be of the order of a few ms) at a certain point on the material. During this time window, the laser beam is kept active, and by managing the pulse frequency, a train of pulses necessary to create the dot is released on the single point. Obviously, the software allows the variation of the number of pulses per point and the saving of the specification to be able to repeat it on other geometries.

In detail, for the realization of the entire texture, a new point processing pattern was created that emulates the effect of a mechanical peening process (DOTS type Hatch Pattern). The pattern can be modified by inserting an angle and defining the “Scale” factor, which is the double of the distance (in mm) between two successive pulses. The same can be used to fill any geometry (circle, rectangle, or other). In the properties of the fill, the time (in ms) of mirror stay on a certain point must be defined. The number of pulses released will be given by the product of frequency by the temporal duration of stay.

For the management of the entire processing, it is necessary to define a “Job List,” which is a sequence of successive processing.

The companies involved

LASIT – LASER INNOVATION

LASIT is the largest Italian company dedicated to laser marking, which since 1990 has been working to specialize in this technology. Today it has offices worldwide and boasts a laboratory with over 20 different sources. Continuous investments in research and development allow the company to be at the forefront in all production sectors and continuously attract new talents that represent the future of the business. LASIT specializes in finding solutions suitable for large production lines, complete in all stages of the traceability process: from component verification, to marking, to reading the marked codes through advanced vision systems.

GE AVIO

Avio Aero is a company that designs, manufactures, and maintains subsystems and systems for aeronautical propulsion. With over 110 years of history, it is a global player for mechanical transmission systems, turbines, combustors, and propulsion systems for both fixed-wing and rotary applications; it is also a pioneer in the field of additive manufacturing. Avio Aero’s challenge is to develop new technologies and applications to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, produce lighter aircraft, and achieve better performance.

OCIMA

OCIMA is an SME with thirty years of experience in the construction of equipment and automatic machines for industrial use. The sectors in which it operates are automotive, food, irrigation technologies, and energy. The company boasts a marked flexibility in the development of innovative solutions and the use of new technologies, as well as a great capacity for adaptation to new technologies and products.

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