The need for process monitoring or temperature control of components has become an increasing challenge as numerous industries push their technological boundaries. Examples of these components include thermocouples, accelerometers, heating coils and cooling channels.
Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) is showing significant promise in exploring and testing some of these possibilities. Welding processes are currently being developed that enable thin-walled components to be fully welded (encased) into the process tooling. Embedded components with a wall thickness as little as 0.006” (0.15 mm) have been successfully welded directly into the body of functional tools. Powder filler metal is then laser welded in sequential layers to bring the pre-machined region to a “positive” condition in order to facilitate final machining.
Subsequent post-weld machining to dimension of the tool body results in the embedded components being completely concealed within the body of the tool, with the exception of needed input/output hardware connections.
Some application examples include:
- Aerospace welding used to seal high-temperature heating elements into aircraft monitoring equipment to prevent freezing, yet allowing the body of the device to be machined to an aerodynamic profile.
- Thin walled (0.050” diameter) tubing has been embedded directly into the cavity face of molds to facilitate faster cooling.
- Thermocouple devices embedded 0.010” – 0.020” below the surface they are monitoring.
Currently a number of industries are showing interest in this process, including aerospace, Department of Defense, chemical processing, power generation and injection molding.
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