Collaboration to allow laser cladding firm LaserBond to double production

LaserBond (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), which has been using thermal coating techniques to produce hard-wearing components and products for the mining, power generation, manufacturing, and agriculture industries since 1992, recently formed a research collaboration with the University of South Australia's Future Industries Institute (Mawson Lakes, South Australia) to establish a new laser cladding system featuring a 16kW laser, which it hopes to have up and running in September 2016.

LaserBond chairman Allan Morton says that the company's laser-applied coatings typically triple the life of a product. "This is effectively 3D printing using industrial robots and industrial lasers to add material to existing substrates to create better performing products," he says. "The economic benefit is not so much that the components are lasting longer, it's that you don't have to shut the system down to change components—so they're getting longer cycles out and that has ramifications in the workplace health and safety area as well."

Laser cladding deposits a coating onto a metal component. (Credit: Creative Commons/The Lead South Australia)

The company, which predominantly manufactures for the mining industry, exports about 80% of its products to countries including Chile, Mongolia, and South Africa. The company's products are typically made from steel and then applied with materials such as nickel alloys, tungsten, titanium carbides, and ceramics. Manufactured items include mining picks, furnace doors, and "down-the-hole" hammers. For any metal component that wears, Morton says, the company can apply a surface to make it last longer for new parts, as well as make an old part with new surfaces that are better than new.

The company expects the new laser to allow it to double production. "We're able to deposit material quicker than we currently do and also it's all about energy," Morton says.

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