The goal of a new European consortium with six partners from research and industry is to perfect a laser-stabilized plasma welding process. About 50 interested enterprises came to the one-day, start-up workshop for CLAiM in Turkey, and attentively followed the lectures on the planned optimizations for welding thin metal sheets.
There is a clear trend in both the transport and the automobile industries towards light-weight construction using high-strength sheets made of stainless steel and aluminum. Especially SMEs (small and middle sized enterprises) are interested in fast manufacturing processes without quality losses, to maintain a high competitive position on the market. For this reason, the goal of the project CLAiM (Customised Laser-Aided Plasma Arc Welding of Light Alloys and Steels) is to shorten the processing time for established plasma welding processes, and at the same time to significantly increase welding seam quality.
The basic idea is to use a laser-stabilized welding process, such as a similar process with excellent results for light arc welding. Combining a laser with 400W output and a plasma welding source can bring about a 50% increase in the maximum welding speed. This would not only reduce the heat input into the metal sheet, but also significantly improve the weld seam quality. A further aim of the project is to achieve a 30% increase in the welding depth.
The project was introduced to about 50 participating enterprises at the first CLAiM workshop in Turkey this spring. At the workshop, the German firm Merkle presented the necessary welding system, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) explained the process idea, and the Spanish partner Tecnalia the welding process control concept. Also, the Turkish companies at the workshop were informed of the possibilities of participating in EU projects and in further funding initiatives for cooperating with German partners. Professor Arif Demir, vice-president of the university of Kocaeli, hosted the workshop.
An important goal of CLAiM is to strengthen the position of SMEs on the market by providing a significantly improved welding process for sheet metals, with low investment costs. “The high number of SMEs participating in the workshop was great for a kick-off meeting”, says Jörg Hermsdorf from the LZH. “By starting with close cooperation with small and middle sized enterprises, we can expect a quicker transfer of the project results to the target group.”
In the project CLAiM, two European research institutes and four industrial enterprises will be working together until September, 2012: Tecnalia Automotive and Taller de Modelos y Troqueles, S.L. (Spain), Form Engineering Ltd. (Turkey), Laser-Tech (Czech Republic) as well as Merkle Schweißanlagen-Technik and the Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany). The research and development activities are financially supported by the 7th framework program of the EU. Project management is carried out by the REA-Research Executive Agency htpp://ec.europa.eu/research/rea [FP7/2007-2013] [FP7/2011-2013], proposal n° .