The Manufacturing Technology Centre is driving improvements in UK manufacturing productivity with the installation of state-of-the-art laser processing equipment.
The MTC has become one of the first research centres in the world to install an advanced co-axial brazing head to its ground-breaking laser cell. The process could save the manufacturing industry millions of pounds in time and tooling changes and will demonstrate how automation can close the productivity gap.
The new equipment – which is still at prototype stage - has been supplied by Precitec, a global leader in laser materials processing tools. Installed in the MTC’s laser materials processing cell, the equipment is capable of laying down a filler wire for brazing and welding operations in any direction or orientation. Previous techniques involved careful programming or repositioning of the head to change direction.
The co-axial brazing head is at the cutting edge of laser technology. A small number of prototypes are being tested in the automotive industry for brazing car bodies, but the MTC is developing the new, more flexible process to improve efficiency and productivity in aerospace, medical and other industrial applications.
Precitec and MTC engineers are working to develop the technology which optically tracks the weld seam. This compensates for changes in direction, allowing the processing head to maintain the correct orientation throughout the process. The new application means quicker, more accurate processes, less waste and easier programming.
Senior research engineer at the MTC Kevin Withers said the new laser material processing equipment was a huge boost to the MTC’s already impressive capabilities and would help manufacturing SMEs improve their competitiveness.
"Our research engineers are already leaders in the field of high integrity fabrication. The new equipment increases our laser processing capability, allowing us to apply cutting edge technology to improve manufacturing efficiency across many industrial sectors. This will result in improvements in quality and massive savings in time and cost."
He added that the traditional application was time consuming, requiring careful alignment and positioning of the processing head, and restricted in its ability to process complex three-dimensional surfaces with limited access. This resulted in variations in weld quality and a limitation to the complexity of processes which could be handled. The new equipment also uses high laser power to ensure rapid and ultra-accurate processing. It provides industry-leading precision and speed, creating a competitive advantage for the MTC’s members and customers.
The optically controlled Precitec laser head in action.
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