The process developed by Laser Zentrum Hannover and its partner scientists in the Joining and Cutting of Metals group of the MESCHLAS project eliminates intermetallic phases in large scale metal foam sandwiches. The process uses a transportable axis system and a mobile diode laser, provided by Scientific and Efficient Technologies and LASER on demand. It was tested on a gear unit foundation at Blohm + Voss Naval.
Intermetallic phases are prevented by first removing the aluminum foam that adheres to the top sheets of the panel, which are made of steel. The components are then positioned exactly, so there's no gap. Using conventional spot welding, panels are fixed, and the butt welds and fillet welds are laser welded, using a diode laser with a wavelength between 900nm and 1,030nm and an output of 5kW. The team's tests show that continuous weld seams are possible and a gap as small as 0.6mm can be bridged. Speeds of 0.2 m/min to 1.5 m/min could be achieved depending on material thicknesses, which were up to 5mm.
The group's partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU), Blohm + Voss Naval, and Precitec Optronik. The larger MESCHLAS project's goal is to achieve lightweight construction using sandwich technology, including materials and processes. Its financial support comes from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
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.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a surface preparation method to improve joining carbon composites with aluminum, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for high-volume industrial applications.
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