Laser-Welded Metal Foam Sandwich Lightweights Ships
A new process for laser-welding steel-aluminum foam sandwich structures for lightweighting ships has been demonstrated. Shown here is a laser fillet weld support for structures such as marine gear unit foundations. (Source: Laser Zentrum Hannover)
Ask the the guys maintaining the new LCS. These type of disimilar bond require active corrosion management to offset the potential created at the junction. Another option is to use a Ti Gr2 bridge piece at the junctions.
The explanation does make sense, and I can see that the probability of corrosion would be reduced. But I can also see that if the skin is penetrated during the following production stages, or after the product is delivered, that problems could occur. So a nondestructive method of checking these materials would be potentially worthwhile. So there is a chance for the NDT companies to sell a new product.
@Ann: Okay, I think I understand -- the steel is already bonded to the aluminum prior to welding. (The sandwich panels are probably made by roll-cladding steel with powdered aluminum along with a foaming agent, then foaming the aluminum, as described here). So the welds are steel-to-steel, and the aluminum is not exposed to the environment. This makes sense.
William, as the article states, using metal foam sandwiches to make ships lighter isn't a new idea. The metal foams are often, but not always made of aluminum. Since this research was conducted in Germany, it's possible that this practice is more common there than in the US. Since the aluminum is in the interior of the sandwich structure, corrosion is most likely less than it would be if it were on the outside. Regarding stiffness, it was bending stiffness being described, and the effect sounds like plywood vs a single-layer wood panel. LZH may have such testing info available. Please let us know if you find out more.
Dave, my understanding of intermetallic phases and corrosion problems was also that they are caused by welding steel with aluminum. From the description given in the press release, it sounds like that is not what occurs. Instead, it sounds like the researchers have avoided that by trimming the aluminum foam away so that only the outer "bread slices" of steel are welded together, and the aluminum foam internal layer is not welded, or exposed to water.
I would very much like to see durability testing information on this material, and corrosion resistance information as well. I have never seen, nor ever heard of, aluminum not corroding in a saltwater environment. And steel encased aluminum foam would be a nice sealed environment where corrosion would not be found.
Also, I doubt that a steel plate with a foamed aluminum core would be stiffer than a solid plate of equal thickness, although it could be stiffer than a solid plate of equal weight. Such assertions do need to be qualified, you know.
The existance of intermetallic compounds is not where I see the problems, but rather the proximity of two materials that have such different potentials. Corrosion is probably unavoidable.
@Ann: If the steel and aluminum are welded together, then I'm sure they are in intimate contact. (After all, putting two surfaces in intimate contact with one another is what welding is all about). The fact that brittle intermetallic compounds aren't formed just means that the heating and cooling take place rapidly, not that the aluminum and steel aren't touching.
It's true that some intermetallic compounds can contribute to corrosion, but the lack of intermetallic compounds doesn't mean that there is no possibility of corrosion. Aluminum is anodic to steel, so in the presence of an electrolyte (i.e. water), the aluminum would be expected to corrode. As redandgearhead pointed out, the key to preventing this would be sealing the part in order to prevent water entry.
It may also be worth pointing out that surface area of the foam may be very large -- this is why sponges are made out of foam, after all -- so even if galvanic corrosion occurs, the corrosion rate may be very slow. However, these would be good questions for LZH.
As the article states, the demonstrator, at least, was a marine gear unit foundation. I also thought about corrosion, but because the aluminum and steel aren't touching, there are no intermetallic phases, so there are, presumably, no corrosion issues. Thanks for the points about repair at sea. I can't speak to that, except to note that the laser welds occur only on specific welds, as stated in the article: butt welds and fillet welds. Again, a video sure would have helped.
The first word that pops into my head when I hear the words dissimiar metal is corrosion. When I pull an aluminum wheel off my car which pushes against a steel brake disc, you can see the pattern of the contact patch because the contact patch is rusted.
I am fascinated by the technology to do this and how wavelength was important to the process. ("Say gurl, see if vermillion will work. Or maybe a chartreuse, I'm partial to greens.) I had a manufacturing rep in our design group when I first went to work (his name was Edsel Buick Dodge and I'm not kidding) who said we had some welders who were good enough to make welds which looked like they had welded aluminum to steel.
If there is no oxygen in the structure is there no corrosion? Is so, then keeping the honeycomb sealed would be really important. Water never sleeps, though.
I'm with ChasChas, my materials professors must be spinning in their graves.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
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