TLM introduces mobile laser hardening system

As for any technology and process, there are always new developments and innovative ideas which take the technology to another level. In the case of laser hardening, the AL-ROCK mobil system from ALPHA LASER significantly expands the potential for this already highly effective process.

As a truly mobile robotic system, featuring a powerful 4 kW high-performance fiber laser, the system is production ready in just a few minutes, with its short set-up times delivering significant productivity benefits.

Surface hardening is an essential process for the many metal components which are subjected to arduous operating conditions during their service life. Heat treating the appropriate areas of these components mitigates the effects of abrasion, impact, and wear protecting them from premature failure and the often-significant costs of repair and replacement.

Whilst the principles of selective laser hardening are not new, advances in laser technology in recent years have made the process not only more practical for a wider range of applications, but also a more efficient and cost-effective method of heat-treating ferrous metals.

Laser hardening produces an extremely fine-grained and tough structure, offering high levels of resistance to cracking and making it an ideal solution for many applications.  All common metals can be hardened, for example, tempered steels, structural steels, cold work steels and cast steel as well as certain types of grey cast iron.

Although laser heat treatment and hardening competes directly with many conventional processes, the significant advantages offered by the laser based process means that it is increasingly being chosen as the preferred method. Prime amongst these is the ability to precisely focus heat on specific areas of a component for selective hardening, such as on a cutting edge or a gear tooth, or in difficult to reach areas such as grooves or blind holes. The ability to control the process to this degree ensures that not only are surrounding areas of a component un-affected by residual heat, the precision control of heat input and hardening depth ensures targeted treatment with minimal risk of over-heating or distortion. The power of the laser, combined with the ability to focus the beam at the precise point where it is needed, also means that the time required to heat the part to the required temperature, generally between 9000C and 13000C, is extremely short, often just a few seconds. Add to this the high levels of energy, flexibility, and efficiency available from today’s lasers and it is easy to see why laser hardening has become the established process of choice for many applications.

Taking The Process To The Part

The extremely high levels of flexibility offered by the AL-ROCK mobil system further enhances the process benefits of laser hardening. The ability to take the process to the part means that for larger work-pieces, such as automotive press tools, it is no longer necessary to remove them from the press. The AL-ROCK mobil can easily position itself at the workpiece, using its caterpillar tracks, for quick and flexible accessibility to areas which require hardening or welding. In addition, its compact design simplifies loading and transportation when changing locations either on or off-site. With all essential components, including the laser, cooler, and robot controller, seamlessly integrated into the robot chassis the system is truly portable.

Multiple Processes From A Single Source

The AL-ROCK mobil is also capable of performing a number of other laser-based processes. By selecting from a range of optional optics configurations, a total of seven different processes can be carried out using the AL-ROCK system. These are Deep Penetration Welding, Wire Deposition Welding, Sweep Welding, Hardening with scanner optics, 3D printing, Powder Deposition Welding and Pulse Welding. Exchanging optics between applications is accomplished in minutes. If yet further flexibility is required, a rotary tilt table can be used for positioning workpieces for simultaneous and coordinated processing on a total of 8 axes of motion.

TLM has built up a comprehensive portfolio of laser processing technologies, including the AL-ROCK mobil described in this article. These are supported by ancillary equipment ranging from Laser Safety Eyewear, Extraction Systems and right through to complete Laser Safe Enclosures, designed and built around the specific application. Add to this the company’s hard-won expertise in applying lasers for cutting, welding, marking, and cleaning applications and potential users of laser technology can leverage from a truly holistic approach to laser system integration.

Contact: Andy Toms