A schematic of the thermally assisted machining process.
Thermally Assisted Machining
CSIRO has developed an improved machining process for titanium metal and its alloys by using a localised high energy heat source, such as a laser beam, in conjunction with cutting tools.
3 May 2012 | Updated 19 February 2013
The CSIRO thermally assisted machining process (TAM) uses precise coordination between the cutting tool and a laser beam to raise the metal surface temperature in the path of the cutting tool so that it can be removed more easily.
The process allows titanium metal to be cut at double the normal feed speed - see the animation of the process, below.
(To view the transcript, watch the video on YouTube [external link])
The CSIRO process achieves:
- up to 80 per cent reduction of material removed as waste
- significant increases in tool life
- reduced energy consumption
- reductions in cutting time.
Using laser energy to locally heat the metal makes it soften so that it can be easily removed (without affecting the final properties of the metal). Titanium is a poor conductor of heat, and we use this property to localise the heating precisely in front of the cutting tool. Using this approach provides multiple benefits:
- the heated, plastic metal needs less force to remove it
- using less force increases the life of the cutting tool.
CSIRO’s multi-disciplinary team works in a production environment with an industry team, as well as in a laboratory. We develop the process at bench top scale in the laboratory, and scale it up in the production environment.
Our world class simulation and modelling experts help to solve challenges in translating the process from laboratory to production.
CSIRO is optimising the process for Ti-6Al-4V alloy.
With the conclusion of the current project we will have a licensable technology for incorporating a movable laser head into a large five axis milling machine, as well as complete guidelines for best practice usage and optimal operating conditions that will enable a new user to successfully rough machine Ti6Al4V plate materials.
The technology is also adaptable to machining of forged Ti6Al4V and other titanium alloys, as well as other hard metals such as nickel and steel. Use of a laser in conjunction with final machining offers the potential to generate near final shape components.
We are using the science to produce a better product, with the aim of putting the technology in the hands of world class production engineering outfits.
Find out more about Titanium Technologies.