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RADICLE Report Summary

Project ID: 636932

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RADICLE (Real-time dynamic control system for laser welding)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2017-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The overall aim of the Radicle projects is to develop a laser welding adaptive control system which can integrate sensor data from 3 loops in real time by adjusting laser parameters to deliver welded joints with zero defects. The control system will include in process monitoring control, fault prevention / fixing pre and post welding measurement.
Radicle project partners include four large, end user partners which includes Roll Royce, GE, GKN and CRF (Fiat). The successful implementation of Radicle technology through Project Partners and the wider industry, will enable the project to have the following impacts:-
• An increase in Health & Safety benefits
• An increased productivity of up to 30% resulting in reduced emissions, reduced energy usage, reduced rework and a reduction in the need for final NDE testing
• Reduce floor space requirements by removing the need for large welding room enclosures

The Radicle project contributes to the wider European 2020 targets by:-
• Reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions
• Increasing employment for 20-64 year olds
• Increasing R&D spend
• Increasing education, particularly third level education

Laser welding is a high performance joining process which provides significant benefits over more conventional methods, such as arc based welding. The global market for using laser equipment for material processes has grown 50% since 2004 and is valued in excess of €10 billion per annum. The automotive industry has led in the implementation of laser welding for structures such as BIW (Body in White). The aerospace industry are now also using this process for various applications in joining reactive metals such as titanium alloys. Welds in the aerospace undergo 100% post weld inspections using X-ray technologies and welds with greater levels of porosity than relevant standards specify, have to undergo rework which can severely impact the economic benefits of laser welding processes.

The RADICLE system could also potentially be linked into the surrounding IT infrastructure and Manufacturing Execution Systems [MES]. This would offer major benefits in the aerospace industry as a component could be traced back to the parameters used to weld it. While this may be beyond the scope of RADICLE it will be considered throughout the project to ensure the algorithm is compatible with any future developments in this area.
The RADICLE project combines expertise in welding, materials, optical measurement, lasers and software/ICT. It is also crosses industries in that, solutions to the power, automotive and aerospace sectors can be offered. The project brings academic and industrial partners from across Europe together, benefitting the partners and the project as a whole.

Figure 1: Overview of the Radicle Concept

Radicle is a 36 month project and is delivered in three distinct phases. Phase 1 is about the specification and preparation of samples and components for initial characterisation and subsequent testing. Phase 2 is the development of sensors and the algorithm whilst phase 3 is the integration, demonstration and validation of the RADICLE system, firstly in the lab and subsequently on MTS’s laser welding cell.

Figure 2: Overall approach and methodology

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

• The project has summarised which commercially available sensors, including those measuring the intensity of the back-scattered laser beam, process radiations, keyhole depth and acoustic emissions, were successful in detecting which process deviations and welding defects.

• Starting to build process windows identifying suitable welding conditions for the materials and joint configurations under study in the project, and outlining the tolerances of those conditions,

• Several iterations of a sensor package and sensor control system have been developed and tested.

• Developed a draft specification for the RADICLE laser welding system and, in particular, a design for a multi-sensor processing head with in-built illumination and seam finding/tracking.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Environmental and Societal Impacts

• RADICLE will help to increase economic growth and create new jobs in Europe by means of reducing costs in manufacturing for major employers in Europe.
• Increased output of the OEM manufacturers will have a positive effect for their supply chain, targeting not only large companies but also SMEs. By having large OEM manufacturers in the consortium we can ensure that the RADICLE system is transferred through the entire supply chain of these OEMs.
• Improved Health and Safety as the operator is remote from the laser welding head and therefore, not exposed to fumes and potential injury.
• Training and education opportunities for the partners to upskill their workforce and train other people working in the sector. The training and education gained more relevance in the RADICLE project, since it was seen as a way to increase the visibility of the RADICLE system as well as a way of ensuring a proper uptake of the system by industry. This approach moves from an “in-house” training to a sustainable training/educational program that will be included in the EWF training system that is already running for 25 years.
• Increased employment within the laser systems supply chain to design, manufacture and install the new equipment and sensors. This increase of employment is not only related to what was mentioned in terms of an increase of sales of equipment (more information in D7.4) but also to the increase of well trained workers that will be achieved through the development of training guidelines that will, at a later stage, be incorporated within the EWF training and qualification system.
• Development of gender-agnostic employment opportunities as laser-welding does not involve heavy manual labour effect on the EU population due to the reduction in pollution. By reducing the need for machining and by enabling the increased uptake of laser welding, the working environment will be improved as, for example, workers will be less exposed to the hazardous metal working fluids (MWFs) used in this type of process.

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