A laser-assisted, wire-based process developed for metal cladding is the basis of a new additive manufacturing concept.  Lincoln Electric Co., which originated the cladding technique, is one of a team of researchers in the project — High Throughput Functional Material Deposition Using a Laser Hot Wire Process — which has earned $700,000 in sponsorship in the second round of funding by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, (now relabeled as “America Makes”.)

Lincoln Electric and Case Western Reserve University are building on additive manufacturing research they conducted under the first round of funding. That earlier project, Qualification of Additive Manufacturing Processes and Procedures for Repurposing or Rejuvenation of Tooling, used 3-D scanning to inspect and map damaged tools, molds, and dies, followed by metal laser sintering to repair the damaged surfaces.

Lincoln designs and manufactures arc welding products, robotic arc welding systems, and plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment.

In addition to Lincoln and CWRU, the research team on the new project also includes AZZ/WSI Inc., an electrical equipment and components manufacturer; rp+m Inc.; and RTI International Metals, a titanium manufacturer.

The laser-assisted, wire-based process was developed by Lincoln Electric for steel cladding, but it has shown potential for other alloys. It will be tested and benchmarked for generating structural parts with titanium alloys and functional surfaces with nickel-based alloys.

A titanium-based cladding process would be an important development in additive manufacturing. While titanium is widely used in military, aerospace, medical, and other industries thanks to its lightness, strength, and corrosion resistance, it is a difficult and inefficient material in forming and fabricating projects.

For example, finishing titanium parts may sacrifice a majority of the surface material, which is wasteful and time-consuming, though necessary.  

“The ultimate goal is to make a deposition process that is economical to use, can produce a competitive product by building up a structure or coating a surface, and achieves better performance for the customer,” according to Lincoln Electric metals research group manager Badri K. Narayanan.

In concept, titanium metal layering fits with other America Makes research efforts. It bridges basic research and commercial activity with an idea that is energy-efficient and provides competitive advantage to U.S. manufacturing

 “Complementing the goals of America Makes, Lincoln Electric is uniquely positioned to look at both the process side and the consumer side in terms of making an impact in additive manufacturing,” according to Tom Matthews, v.p. of R&D at Lincoln Electric.