The use of holographic optics for heat flow control in wire-based laser cladding

Laser cladding with wire utilises a focussing lens to melt the surface of the substrate, into which the wire is fed to build up a clad track on the surface. Process reliablity issues in practice include; clad tracks with high levels of dilution, surface cracking and other defects. Key to this is wire reflectivity calculations. Here using Fresnel equations that relate angle of incidence to heat absorption, we are able to show a direct correlation between the applied heat profile of the laser beam and the absorption profile of the wire surface; this has been modelled using COMSOL multiphysics conduction simulations which showed that the heat profile of the applied laser beam has a direct effect on the size and shape of the resulting melt pool. Using computer generated Holographic Optical Elements (HOE), a novel form of optic that alters the heat profile of the laser beam to a user-specified 3d profile, a conventional 1.25 mm diameter Gaussian beam shape and a 1.25 mm square uniform ‘pedestal’ HOE-derived beam shape were tested and compared, using a 1 mm diameter AISI 316 stainless steel wire on a 0.8mm mild steel substrate. These results were also compared to an enlarged 3.5 mm diameter Gaussian beam, in order to evaluate different methods of altering the heat distribution applied to the wire. The HOE generated beam gave superior results, due to its shorter thermal cycle, which reduced the amount of heat going into the clad track and resulted in lower dilution.