A start-up energy company developing a novel battery technology for stationary storage systems contacted EWI about reliably welding several system components. EWI’s support began with an in-plant assessment of processes used at their new manufacturing facility. After executing a weld development program in our lab, we helped transfer the new technology to the shop floor. EWI also assisted with the design of welded components, providing expertise on dissimilar material selection and design-for-welding. Finally, we helped establish a viable path from process development to prototyping, and then to the establishment of a subcontractor able to provide production volumes within one year. This partnership with EWI resulted in improved designs, increased process reliability, and the successful transition to high-volume production.
EWI was approached with the unique challenge of producing 12-ft blanks of an expensive aerospace alloy for use in constructing components for an advanced vehicle. Due to weld quality requirements and material thickness, electron beam (EB) welding was the customer’s preliminary choice; however, available systems could not accommodate parts of this size. To address this challenge, EWI developed a laser welding solution, which presented an additional challenge, specifically the nearly two-minute long weld at power levels approaching 14 kilowatts. This long weld time resulted in substantial focal shift when using commercially available focusing optics. EWI then invented (and subsequently patented) a new focusing optic solution, optimized the process using our high-power fiber laser, and qualified the welding procedure. Eleven blanks were laser welded successfully, qualified to AWS D17.1 Class A requirements, and shipped to the customer for subsequent processing of component for pre-production trials.
An automotive Tier 1 parts supplier needed to improve the crash-impact performance of seat structures. During crash testing, critical elements of the assembly were buckling, compromising overall performance and raising significant safety concerns. EWI’s experts provided guidance on localized thermal processing of these critical sheet-metal components, allowing the creation of specific microstructural architectures to enable designed crash modes. This use of tailored microstructures allowed the design of next-generation lightweight structures using a wider range of base materials while meeting crash worthiness requirements.
Two major US shipbuilders were faced with the need to reduce time for completion of several important vessels by more than 20%. The shipyards, together with the Navy, turned to EWI to evaluate, select, develop procedures, and help with implementation of mechanized welding systems. The results increased productivity by nearly 300% in several critical areas. Savings per vessel were estimated at $750K, which paid of the Navy investment in the technology development in less than two hulls. Many additional vessels of this class are to be built, extending the savings even further.
In an effort to meet the demand for ever-smaller electronic devices, a consumer electronics manufacturer asked EWI to develop a process for joining a 56 gauge wire (12µ in diameter) to a connector pad. As commercially available processes and equipment were not suitable for this application, EWI developed a process for this challenging joining application. The solution involved design and development of custom wire fixturing to locate and hold the wire in the proper position, and tailoring of a micro-electric resistance welding process to provide just the right amount of heat and force to make the joint without destroying the substrate or the wire. The result was a quality process that the manufacture implemented into their product design and manufacturing process.
Most current commercial additive manufacturing (AM) machines operate in an “open loop” manner, with little or no real-time monitoring of the process to ensure quality requirements are consistently met. Common defects can lead to degradation in part quality, potentially resulting in scrapped parts, parts that do not meet application requirements, and added costs. To address this issue, EWI was selected by America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute through funding provided by NIST to design, develop and build an open architecture AM test bed based on laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) technology that was outfitted with a variety of advanced sensors. These sensors enable the collection of critical in situ process data during the AM build, allowing for data driven evaluation of the build itself, to ensure part quality and capability.
An EWI customer in the heavy manufacturing industry regularly uses EWI’s arc welding and non-destructive evaluation experts as an extension of their staff to address high-priority, high-impact manufacturing challenges. By working in their facility alongside their engineers, designers, and operators, we’ve significantly increased productivity while simultaneously decreasing costly rework and warranty claims. EWI’s contribution included optimization of single-wire and tandem gas metal arc welding (GMAW) parameters, weld sequencing for reduced cycle times and reduced distortion, and recommendations to optimize designs for welding. EWI engineers also provided “best practices” training to staff, collaborated with welders to improve fitting tacking procedures, and assisted with streamlining of upstream processes to improve overall efficiency.
A medical device start-up approached EWI with the need to attach micro-sized titanium sensor pads to a small-diameter platinum wire for a neuro-modulation device. To meet this client need, EWI developed a unique process that first involved using a vapor deposition chamber to deposit a 10-µm thin titanium film onto a sacrificial glass substrate. Next, a parallel gap micro-resistance welding system was used to weld a 75-μm platinum wire to the titanium thin film. The heat delivered to the titanium thin film during the weld process welded the platinum wire to the titanium as desired, and also delaminated the titanium film from the underlying sacrificial glass substrate, leaving only the small titanium pad attached to the wire in the locations desired. This process gave the medical device client the fundamental manufacturing technology essential for growth and success of the company.
A consumer products manufacturer of high volume products approached EWI about developing a process for sealing flexible packaging materials to achieve significant cost reduction in materials and improve the environmental impact of the post-consumer waste. EWI developed unique ultrasonic packaging sealing technology and adapted the technology for use in high volume, high speed packaging equipment that met the client’s requirements for sustainability, materials reduction and cost savings. Additional benefits accrued to the client in terms of improved package quality with implications of extended shelf life and reduced product waste during the packaging process, and energy reduction in the packaging process itself.
A major oil company had numerous well casings in a large oil field that were corroding up to 20 feet below ground. To avoid potential environmental risks, this client shut down the wells until repairs could be made, resulting in millions of dollars of lost oil production.
Underground repairs involve disassembling hundreds of parts from inside the wellhead to access the damage and can cost up to $10 million per repair. An alternative approach is to dig through the soil and exterior cement to allow repair from the outside. While this technique is potentially less complicated, it was avoided due to the risk of further damage to the casing and the need to create a temporary support for the wellhead.
The client wanted to develop qualified welding procedures for external repair, and needed a safe method of accessing the damaged area while maintaining the structural integrity of the wellhead. Based on our welding, materials, and structural integrity expertise, EWI was appointed the technical lead on the project. Our team directed a civil engineering firm in the excavation and design a structure to support the wellhead system. We then successfully developed the welding repair procedures, coordinated the engineering program, and implemented the casing repair. The new system saved the client millions of dollars over comparable repair techniques and has since allowed multiple wells to return to production for less than ¼ the cost of a standard repair.
Holland Company, a leading provider of mobile rail repair, approached EWI to assist in creating a method for repairing defects in the rail head. Together, EWI and Holland developed an innovative Head Defect Repair (HDR) process in which the damaged portion of the rail head is removed and a new steel wedge is flash welded into place. Flash welding plays into Holland’s strengths and enables them to make repairs for railroads in any weather, using an existing fleet of repair trucks to create high quality welds in less time, without changing the neutral rail temperature. Watch the video below.
Current-generation satellites use bolt-on shields to protect sensitive components from multiple types of radiation including electromagnetic noise. These shields must withstand high g-forces during launch, be as light as possible, and provide the appropriate attenuation of radiation. To reduce weight while maintaining adequate protection, “graded-Z” shields use laminates of several materials with different atomic numbers. These shields typically combine a thin layer of a high-Z material such as tantalum with layers of lower-Z materials such as aluminum, copper, or steel.
Shields are currently produced by bolting stacks of laminates together, or by explosion welding. While explosively welded laminates are significantly lighter, they are extremely expensive to manufacture. Fabrisonic LLC, a spinout company established to commercialize EWI’s patented ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) technology, has produced structural components with integrated tantalum-aluminum graded-Z shielding for several applications. Since these components function as both structure and shielding, they provide significant reductions in mass and total volume. Fabrisonic is also working on integrating thermal protection into these components for further weight savings.
Tantalum interlayer in a 6061 3D printed aluminum component