High-speed laser cladding makes wear-resistant coatings more cost-efficient

April 28, 2017
Premium coating alternative is more affordable than conventional techniques such as chromium, flame spraying, and hard-facing.

Premium coating alternative is more affordable than conventional techniques such as chromium, flame spraying, and hard-facing

Cladding is a proven technique for applying wear-resistant metal coatings. The innovative technique is gaining popularity, thanks to its adhesion (metallurgical) and wear resistance that outperform conventional methods.

Many companies—including DEME, VCST, and Samsonite—count on Laser Cladding Venture (LCV; Opglabbeek, Belgium) to apply laser cladding in diverse metal alloys. Besides the quality advantages of laser cladding, LCV also targets maximum cost savings by introducing its high-speed coating process. The company controls the technology of applying coating layers faster, which allows high-speed laser cladding to increase productivity and significantly reduce the cost of the layers.

Coating rotating parts large and small
Laser cladding is an environmentally friendly wear-protection process in which metal powder is fused on existing metal components. The applied wear-resistant coating layer is metallurgically bonded to the underlying material, offering optimal adhesion and minimal structural intermixing.

By introducing high-speed laser cladding, LCV offers a cost-efficient alternative to more conventional techniques such as chromium, flame spraying, and hard-facing. High-speed laser cladding is based on the capability to reliably apply a coating on a metal component clamped on a lathe machine. To develop superior coating adhesion, the company has optimized the melting process using enhanced optics and vision systems to monitor clad geometry, metallurgical properties, and temperature information.

As laser cladding is particularly suited for rotating parts, typical applications cover axles, shafts, bearings, tubes, crank shafts, rollers, and wheels, among other parts. Such parts are clamped on a fast-rotating lathe and coated with a metallic layer of choice. Typical materials are stellites, nickel, and stainless steel alloys, with or without carbides. These qualitative coatings multiply the lifetime of the wear parts.

LCV is equipped with a state-of-the-art installation for high-speed laser cladding. It can apply coatings on components up to 4m and 750kg—when the diameter exceeds 120mm, the installation can deal with components up to 10m and 3500kg. In addition, the high-speed laser cladding service is an environmentally friendly alternative to hard chromium, as it generates no harmful substances.

Laser cladding for DEME, VCST, and Samsonite
Laser cladding is increasingly being adopted by international manufacturers active in multiple industry sectors. The manufacturers opt for laser cladding by LCV, thanks to extreme wear protection, premium material quality, and affordable pricing.

Dredging company DEME (Zwijndrecht, Belgium) makes use of laser cladding: LCV applies the technology to increase the wear resistance of dredging tools. The laser-cladded tools have been proven to last longer, even in extreme working conditions. This translates into less downtime as well as more efficient and cost-effective material dredging.

FIGURE 1. A robotized laser cladding cell automatically adds the aluminum layers for new suitcase variants on curved mold surfaces.

In prototyping new suitcase variants (FIGURE 1), Samsonite (Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong) lays composite fiber prepregs into aluminum molds. Such a mold forms the required lightweight suitcase shape, while completing material curing. When initiating a new prototype iteration round, Samsonite specifies the mold areas requiring a cladded layer of predefined thickness. LCV uses a robotized laser cladding cell to automatically add the aluminum layers on curved mold surfaces. As laser cladding characterizes low energy input, there is minimal impact on the geometrical and structural integrity of the molds.

FIGURE 2. 3D printing of gears through laser cladding enables development of automotive gearbox concepts.

LCV also shifts gears at VCST (St.-Truiden, Belgium). For the purpose of gearbox prototyping (FIGURE 2), the worldwide automotive supplier turned to laser cladding to 3D-print its gears, as time-to-market is crucial during concept development of new automotive gearboxes. The gears that LCV produces for VCST exhibit proven performance under dynamic load.

FIGURE 3. Laser cladding is used to coat pet-food granulate extrusion screws, extending screw lifetime 300%.

Laser cladding also improves pet-food manufacturing, as it extends the life of bulk extrusion screws for pet-food granulate (FIGURE 3). LCV and Vatis collaborate to coat the extrusion screws for an international pet-food manufacturer using a wear- and corrosion-resistant metal alloy. With robotized laser cladding, LCV succeeds in extending the lifetime of extrusion screws 300% compared with conventional hard-facing methods. This enables the pet-food manufacturer to save considerably on maintenance and investment costs.

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