EWI has a great collection of high power lasers that are being used for manufacturing items from small batteries to 48” gas transmission pipelines. This is the second in a series of blogs exploring these cool toys.
Predictions of a doubling of natural gas consumption over the next 20 years are placing increasing demands on the existing pipeline system, which will need to be expanded to handle the capacity. Increasing demand will require major investment in new long-distance gas-transmission pipelines and significant expansion of existing infrastructure. EWI has been working with the oil and gas industry in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation to evaluate Hybrid Laser/Arc Welding (HLAW) for pipeline construction. HLAW combines the deep penetration capability of a fiber laser with the gap tolerance of standard arc welding processes. This allows a typical pipeline weld to be completed at 3-4 times faster than industry standard arc welding techniques.
Attached you can find two videos that illustrate the process. The first shows a demonstration in the parking lot of EWI on a simulate 36” pipeline. You can see that the demonstration was a success at a relatively high travel speed (when compared to conventional methods). In fact the hardest part of the demo was getting FAA permission to use a 10kW laser 3 nautical miles from a major airport. The second video is a high speed video that is slowed down to allow you to see what is happening behind all of the bright sparks. On the left side of the molten weld pool you can see a bright shiny spot that is actually the 10kW laser hitting the surface. To the right you can see the weld wire being fed in and can watch as a molten droplet forms and is thrown into the molten weld pool.