ESAB & PLSystems Enter Agreement to Commercialize Hybrid Laser Welder


Florence, SC - ESAB Welding & Cutting Products has signed an agreement with PLSystems of Maine enabling ESAB to integrate PLSystems' patented closed-loop control system into their mechanized laser welding systems. The agreement is the result of a four-year collaboration to develop and commercialize a hybrid laser welding system that combines the benefits of laser welding and GMAW. A key component of the system is the patented control that allows the system to monitor the weld joint in real time and modify the process to accommodate a joint mismatch. ESAB launched their HLx Series of laser welders in January 2006 and introduced the product to the industry at large at IMTS 2006 in September.

The agreement allows ESAB to assemble and integrate PLSystems' control system with ESAB products for licensing and resale. The agreement also calls for collaboration of the two companies on the development of new related manufacturing technologies and products.

The HLx Series is the first commercially available mechanized laser-welding systems utilizing features a closed-loop control that monitors and adapts the welding process faster than a human operator could, allowing travel speeds that would not be possible with conventional control systems. This technology is available as a robotic system, a portable tractor system or on a moving gantry.

Hybrid Laser Arc Welding (HLAW) combines the deep weld penetration and low heat input associated with laser welding with the power efficiency and superior gap tolerance of GMAW to create a new welding alternative. The deep penetration and fast weld speeds of laser welding reduce heat infusion into the part and reduce the associated distortion that causes plates to buckle and warp, making fit-up unpredictable and often costly to repair. Adding GMAW in tandem with the laser, with the addition of a relatively modest amount of filler metal, creates a wider weld bead capable of bridging much larger weld gaps, up to four times as wide as conventional laser processes can handle.

Adding GMAW to the welding mix also enhances a finished part's metallurgical stability and, with GMAW's slower cooling rates, produces welds with greater strength and less brittleness. This is especially beneficial for higher alloyed steels sensitive to hot cracking.

The hybrid process improves process efficiency and overall productivity, improves weld quality, lowers production costs and offers more versatility than conventional welding processes, setting new standards for productivity, cost efficiency and flexibility in heavy fabrication applications.

"This is the most disruptive technology I have seen in my almost 30-year involvement in the welding and cutting industry," said Jeff Hoffart, Senior Vice President and General Manager for ESAB Welding & Cutting Products - North America Equipment Business. "This technology reduces labor content by 30% to 50% and reduces filler metal cost by as much as 90% over traditional methods. I believe that over the next 5 to 10 years, the fabrication industry will change significantly to adopt HLAW technology for heavy and light fabrication. Fabricators will need to rethink their entire manufacturing system because HLAW will produce welded parts at significantly faster rates and eliminate much of the secondary repair now inherent in welding fabrication."

"PLSystems has led the team, supported by the Office of Naval Research, in the development of the hybrid-laser system," said David Patch, president of PLSystems. "ESAB is an excellent partner to ensure this development transitions rapidly into the market. This is another excellent example of a small, technology intensive business partnering with a major commercial corporation to form a partnership that enables leading edge technology to rapidly enter the market place. In this case, it further leverages the technology that was developed for Navy shipbuilding purposes by providing the technology to the much broader commercial market."

PLSystems is committed to supporting ESAB with the latest in state-of-the-art laser and hybrid laser technology. PLSystems will continue to leverage its partnership with ESAB to further develop new laser welding technology to support growing industry needs.
ESAB Welding & Cutting Products is one of the world's largest and most experienced manufacturers of welding and cutting equipment and welding filler metals. Recognized as the technological leader in the industry, ESAB is committed to providing customized solutions for its customers. For more information, visit www.esabna.com or call 1-800-ESAB-123.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT
Debi Ratliffe
ESAB Welding & Cutting Products
843-679-6317
dratliffe@esab.com

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