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Bending metal with lasers.

In a variety industries, lasers are commonly known for their drilling, cutting, welding, marking, and selective heat-treating capabilities. Now, work being done at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research (IFTR), Polish Academy of Sciences, holds promise that metal bending will soon become as commonplace as other laser capabilities have become.

The technique consists of traversing a laser beam along a bend line on the material surface. Then, the heated portion of the material undergoes a suitable intense cooling (using water or gas) that creates an internal stress field, resulting in a bend along the line of laser beam traverse.

The bend occurs due to the rapid heating and cooling of the metal along the bend line, under computer control. No external forces or shaping tools are required, eliminating the need for shaping tools such as dies and rollers. According to IFTR, local temperature surges in the material are of such short duration that only slight changes to the material structure occur. In some cases, improvement to material structure and properties is observed. Even brittle materials like cast iron may be shaped by this method, a result unattainable by traditional technologies.

Most of the laser bending done at the institute has involved flat sheets subsequently shaped into developable surfaces such as cylinders or cones. Recently, the Institute has embarked on successive research with the purpose of widening the technology to include shaping of spherical cupolas, pipe bending, providing pipes with flanges, and the forming of ribs on metal sheet by producing local bulging.

The Institute, which has applied for patents in Poland, the EC, USA, and Japan, is prepared to consider propositions of research cooperation.

Dr Henryk can be contacted at Institute of Fundamental Technological Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, PL 00-049 Warsaw, Swietokrzyska 21, Poland, telephone (48-22) 26 89 11, telex 815638 IPPT PL.
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Title Annotation:Technology Update
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 1992
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