The ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research (ZAL TechCenter; Hamburg, Germany), an aviation industry innovation center, has added a facility for laser shock peening (LSP). The technology is used to surface-treat structural components that are subject to particularly high stresses, and is significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly than conventional shot peening processes. In aviation, LSP can be used to strengthen the frames of doors and cockpit windows. At €2.6 million (over $2.9 million), the facility installation is the largest single investment to date in the history of ZAL's existence.
In the LSP process, a high-intensity pulse of light is aimed at a foil placed behind a film of water, which is positioned on top of the material to be treated. The laser beam creates a high-pressure plasma at the point of impact, and the energy is discharged in an explosive manner. This explosive wave compresses the material at this point, thus hardening its structure. The same process can also be used to shape individual components. The flexibility of LSP in terms of materials means that it is also suited to shaping larger surfaces. The technology has been in use in aviation since the 1990s, particularly by the U.S. military.
The installation at the ZAL TechCenter makes LSP available on a large scale in Europe for the first time. The main user of the new facility will be Airbus, which is renting 60% of the infrastructural capacity. The remaining capacity will be jointly marketed by ZAL (also in Hamburg) and LSP Technologies (Dublin, OH), and is available as a test infrastructure for research partners.
For more information, please visit www.zal.aero.