The application of high power lasers to the welding of tee section joints in ship production
The use of computers by naval architects has revolutionised ship design and -construction management. The use of high power laser technology could similarly revolutionise production processes to produce a quantum leap in productivity. Facilitating low heat input materials processing, the laser is suited to various cutting, welding and heat treatment applications in shipbuilding to increase productivity through improved product accuracy. From these processes, the Author has concentrated on the application of high power lasers to the welding of tee section joints - the most common joint configuration in ship structures - by a single sided method (skid welding) to give both the lowest possible heat input and greatest flexibility. -Using a lOkW laser, single pass fully penetrating skid welds may be produced for joints in plate of up to 15mm thick, but using this size of laser, production parameter envelopes to produce visually and structurally sound joints reduce in size as plate thickness increases to greater than 10mm. It is shown that fully penetrating laser skid welds produced in steel conventionally used for surface vessel construction are of superior structural quality to fillet welds as required by classification society rules. The work has shown that achieving process consistency in an automated production based skid welding workstation operating with existing levels of joint tolerance will be dependent not only on well designed laser and beam delivery harware but also on suitable on-line adaptive control systems. It has been demonstrated that by employing laser skid welding for steelwork fabrication, an increase in productivity can be gained, principally through increased processing speed and improved product accuracy.