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Novel local shielding approach for the laser welding based additive manufacturing of large structural space components from titanium

: Kolsch, N.; Seidel, A.; Finaske, T.; Brueckner, F.; Gumpinger, J.; Bavdaz, M.; Rohr, T.; Ghidini, T.; Leyens, C.


Journal of laser applications : JLA 32 (2020), No.2, Art. 022075, 12 pp.
ISSN: 1042-346X
ISSN: 1938-1387
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IWS ()

The Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (ATHENA) will observe “the hot and energetic universe,” which was determined as one of the most urgent scientific topics for a major future space mission by The European Space Agency (ESA). One of its three main components is the optical bench, a monolithic titanium structure that accommodates 678 mirror modules and keeps them accurately aligned. The immense but slender structure in the range of 2.5–3 m diameter at a height of 300 mm proves a challenge to manufacturing. A hybrid robot cell is developed using additive buildup via laser welding, combined with high-performance machining and the state of the art process and metrology monitoring and control. The present work focuses on the shielding of the laser induced melt pool, a key concern when processing titanium. The sensitive metal with unusual low heat conductivity requires a large area of high purity atmosphere to prevent embrittlement. However, the large hybrid system prohibits the use of a sealed enclosure, and therefore, a local shielding system is developed for the challenging case of the ATHENA optical bench’s hollow-chamber design. Since the present thin wall design poses a worst-case scenario in terms of heat dissipation and shielding flow for the shielding system, its effectiveness here can be applied to most other geometries enabling the flexibility for lot size one. The key features of the novel approach are the prevention of turbulence while keeping operation economical despite the large shielding area. The first is achieved by means of an integrated honeycomb screen and the latter by employing a layered flow with a higher velocity outer curtain and an air deflecting coflow. This system was numerically optimized, tested, and effectiveness proven by means of visual inspection, microstructural analysis, and measurement of material properties.