Laser Welding on the fast track

Das könnte sie auch interessieren (gleiche Kampagne oder Kategorie):

From Application Development to Series Production within Four Weeks

Imes GmbH, specialized in advanced high-temperature measuring cells, integrates ROFINʻs laser welding solution at record speed.

For many years, the laser has been a well-established tool in industrial material processing. However, there is still a perception that the implementation of a new laser process is somewhat cumbersome and restricted to larger companies or well-versed laser specialists. But this is no longer true. Letʻs take a closer look at how a medium-sized company established a new laser process, including application development, system implementation and user training within a few weeks.

Record Sales at Imes

Aufgabe: Recherche und Interview vor Ort, Fotodokumentation, Erstellen des mehrseitigen Anwenderberichts in Deutsch und Englisch.

Spring 2011, Kaufbeuren, Germany - Stefan Neumann, Managing Director of Imes GmbH, has to make quick decisions. Fortunately, his company faces a big challenge: doubling production capacities by the turn of the year. Sales figures for Imesʻ measuring cells for large gas and diesel engines increased beyond all expectations, breaking every record in the companyʻs 15-year history. Imes sells its high-temperature resistant pressure sensors mainly to manufacturers of engines for large ships and static engines with power ratings from 250 kW to 18 MW.

Laser Welding of Stainless Steel Sensor Housings

The companyʻs key product, the HTT-04 cylindrical pressure sensor, measures pressures up to 300 bar, while withstanding temperatures of up to 300 °C. A tube made of stainless steel, which accommodates a thin-fllm technology measuring sensor, has to be screwed into the cylinder block. Another tube contains signal processing electronics and industry-standard connectors to connect to the engine management system. Multiple manufacturing steps require the hermetic sealing of stainless steel tubes, already equipped with sensitive electronics. Adhesive technology, which Imes had been using initially, turned out to be prone to the extreme vibrations during the long operation time of some 10.000 hours. Subsequently, an external sub-contract manufacturer had been hermetically sealing the tubes with a laser welding system. Laser welding is ideally suited for precise and robust stainless steel joints. More than that, as parts are processed without any application of force and heat input is low and highly localized, the laser welds perfectly even sub- assemblies which contain delicate, heat-sensitive electronics.

Environmental Protection and Alternative Energies

Stefan Neumannʻs company takes advantage of two global trends: climate protection and energy production from renewable raw materials. Climate protection forces the shipping industry to gradually substitute diesel fuel with liquefied natural gas (LNG). As LNG produces lower CO2 emissions compared to oil-based fuels and zero SOX emissions, dual-fuel engines are becoming the industrial standard. Efficient and reliable combustion of varying fuel types requires considerable improvements in the engine management, based on additional measuring sensors in the cylinder block. Energy production from biogas, however, offers a different challenge. The level of methane, the energy carrier, varies as much as does the composition and quality of raw materials and conditions of microbial degradation. Biogas engines have to maintain efficient combustion with varying fuel qualities while attaining high running times. This again requires intelligent motor management - with sensor-technology supplied by Imes.

Application Development at the Laser Manufacturer

In spring 2011 Neumann decided to introduce the laser welding process for his in-house production in order to shorten production leadtimes and streamline logistics. At this time Imes was completely new to laser technology. A business partner helped to establish contact with the laser manufacturer ROFIN. Andreas Schöllhorn, the responsible sales manager at ROFIN, immediately invited Neumann to send samples to his application lab in Starnberg. ROFIN-BAASEL runs one of the largest applications labs worldwide for evaluating new laser processes for industrial material processing. A variety of some 30 laser systems, including the newest femtosecond lasers, are permanently available for tests.

ROFINʻs application engineers quickly developed the optimum laser setup for Stefan Neumannʻs samples. The Select laser workstation, equipped with an additional rotary axis was a perfect fit for this task. The Select is both a manual welding laser and a high-precision CNC system with easy teach-in via a multi-functional joystick. It also offers enough room to cope with the bulky steel-

reinforced hoses already attached to one component. The CNC-driven rotary axis allows for a fully- automated process, ensuring that every part is welded with optimum process parameters, e.g. laser power, pulse frequency, pulse shaping and feed rate. Maximum process stability is a big issue for Imes, because sensor-malfunctions in shipʻs engines are not a trivial matter.

Customer-tailored Laser System

Just a few days later, ROFIN demonstrated the solution in its application lab. Neumann was convinced and moreover investment costs met his expectations. Andreas Schöllhorn suggested the addition of some optional modules to the laser workstation to extend its application range. Experience shows that additional laser applications often follow sooner than expected. Neumann, who appreciated ROFINʻs fast and accurate work, relied on this advice. Investment costs for a basic Select configuration are in the area of 40.000 Euros. This rises to around 70.000 Euros for a fully equipped new machine with various options like CNC and Teach-In.

Andreas Schöllhorn makes no secret of how much he likes customers like Stefan Neumann. „Medium-sized companies are the best place to find managers who love to take responsibility and make decisions. They place considerable trust in us and therefore we strive to achieve our common goal in the best possible way.“

Installation, Training and Series Production

System installation and setup is carried out by a ROFIN specialist with extensive customer training experience. During two days, the engineers at Imes learned everything they needed to know about daily operation as well as setting up new applications. Operating the fully-automated, CNC-driven series production is a breeze. This enhances flexibility, as various employees, who take over other production tasks as well, can operate the laser welding system. Series production of the HTT-04 sensor with in-house laser welding commenced very quickly.

Well-established After Six Months

Today, the in-house laser welding system helps Imes to organize production in a much more flexible and responsive manner. All of this adds up to a production increase of 20 percent. The quality of Imesʻ own weld seams is considerably better than the parts welded by the external contractor. Stefan Neumann is very happy with his decision. Looking back he says: „We wanted to introduce a new production technology in a very short time. Therefore we needed a reliable partner who offers fast and un-bureaucratic support. At ROFIN we got the right advice, fast delivery and perfect training. I never would have thought that operating a laser welding system is that easy.“ The added options paid off as well. „We are already welding an additional joint with the laser“ notes Stefan Neumann „and our new product, which we will present in 2012, features several laser welds“.