Local heat treatment of high strength steels with zoom-optics and 10kW-diode laser
High strength steels enable new solutions for weight optimized car bodies without sacrificing crash safety. However, cold forming of these steels is limited due to the need of high press capacity, increased tool wear, and limitations in possible geometries. One can compensate for these drawbacks by local heat treatment of the blanks. In high-deformation areas the strength of the material is reduced and the plasticity is increased by diode laser irradiation. Local heat treatment with diode laser radiation could also yield key benefits for the applicability of press hardened parts. High strength is not desired all over the part. Joint areas or deformation zones for requested crash properties require locally reduced strength. In the research project "LOKWAB" funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), heat treatment of high strength steels was investigated in cooperation with Audi, BMW, Daimler, ThyssenKrupp, Fraunhofer- ILT, -IWU and others. A diode laser with an output power of 10 kW was set up to achieve acceptable process speed. Furthermore a homogenizing zoom-optics was developed, providing a rectangular focus with homogeneous power density. The spot size in x- and y-direction can be changed independently during operation. With pyrometer controlled laser power the surface temperature is kept constant, thus the laser treated zone can be flexibly adapted to the needs. Deep-drawing experiments show significant improvement in formability. With this technique, parts can be manufactured, which can conventionally only be made of steel with lower strength. Locally reduced strength of press hardened serial parts was demonstrated.