GE unveiled a high-power hybrid laser arc welding (HLAW) system on April 14. The company said that at 20 kW, its system is one of the largest HLAW facilities in North America. It wields enough power to weld steels nearly one-inch thick in a single pass versus the up to a half dozen passes required with current welding technologies.
The hybrid laser arc welding (HLAW) process uses a combination of laser welding and arc welding. With high-power fiber lasers, one is able to weld steels greater than 0.5" thick in a single pass at speeds greater than 6 ft/min.
The company points out that the news technology will dramatically increase the speed at which industrial products are manufactured in the future. For example, going from conventional welding processes to HLAW to weld the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga could have saved nearly 800 tons of weld metal (equal to the weight of more than 600 compact cars) and reduced the welding time by 80%.
GE is exploring this technology for application across its infrastructure manufacturing operations, including the oil and gas, power generation, aviation and rail industries.
"Manufacturing is becoming increasingly high-tech, with the introduction of advanced tools and processes that can make products better, faster and at substantially lower costs," said Luana Iorio, Manufacturing Technologies Leader at GE Global Research. "The portability of this new-high power laser platform will enable us to think very differently about how parts are welded. For example, we can now think about welding parts onsite where a product will be located, as opposed to the traditional manufacturing floor. This also will simplify and reduce time in the shipping process."
The development of the HLAW system underscores is part of GE's goal to infuse advanced technologies into its manufacturing processes. Its Global Research is investing in a diverse array of more than 100 manufacturing and inspection technology programs and inventing new ways to make products. In October 2009, GE opened the Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center in Michigan that is dedicated to accelerating the development of next generation manufacturing technologies for GE's industrial products.