Melt pool and microstructure manipulation using diffractive holographic elements in high power conduction laser welding
2011-02-09T09:57:44Z (GMT) by
Conduction laser welding involves initiating a melt pool by exposure to high power laser induced light and controlled thermal conduction. Existing welding techniques generally provide enough energy to join the component but have no real control over the melt pool. This process can invariably lead to over heating in adjacent areas or even the melt pool itself, often causing unavoidable issues. This work presents a procedure in which a desired melt pool shape is conceived, and a bespoke beam irradiance distribution is designed to match. The beam is shaped, not by conventional lenses, but by a diffractive optical element (DOE). The DOE utilises holography to wholly create a highly complex three dimensional energy distributions through constructive and destructive interference. This technique allows novel beam irradiance distributions to be applied to conduction mode laser welding, with which the melt pool transverse profile has been shaped to a specific design. Holographic conduction laser welding has been shown to be successful and represents a significant step forward in the industry, demonstrated in this case in both mild and stainless steel. The fusion zone is shown to be particularly influenced by the shape of the illuminating laser beam profile, and many of the welds demonstrate a highly novel weld profile because of this. The use of a bespoke beam irradiance distribution allows the user to control the heat flow to the workpiece, and this allows greater control over material migration due to surface tension effects. Many of the welds demonstrate unique surface solidification patterns directly linked to the beam profile used. The DOE also presents a number of additional advantages, such as an increased usable depth of field, allowing for less stringent set up tolerances for example. Comprehensive metallography has been performed on samples of these welds through the use of optical microscopy, electron microscopy, electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). These techniques offer in depth analysis of crystal size, shape, orientation and phase. By incorporating DOE's into a laser welding process, not only does the melt pool shape become controllable, but also the crystal growth is highly influenced. Many of the undesirable attributes of a conventional laser weld are reduced by using a beam distribution created by a DOE, bringing the microstructure of the weld pool closer to that of the parent material.