Laser Peening Explained in Five Minutes

What is Laser Peening?

Laser peening is a surface enhancement method for improving metal fatigue strength and damage tolerance by inhibiting crack growth. The process is often called Laser Shock Peening (LSP) because it uses a powerful shockwave to plastically deform the metal and produce compressive residual stress.

In principle, laser peening is similar to shot peening, but it produces deeper and stronger compressive stress. This difference can be great – 10X deeper or more for laser peened components. As a result, laser peened parts can last 10X longer as crack propagation is slowed or halted altogether.

Chart showing laser peening effect on fatigue life improvement

How Does Laser Peening Work?

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LSP Technologies’ Quality Management System Certified to AS9100D

LSP Technologies (LSPT) has been laser peening aerospace parts for over fifteen years. The company was founded to fill a void in the commercial market for laser peening services and has since grown into an industry powerhouse.

In order to effectively serve manufacturers in a quality-focused industry, LSPT has developed and maintained a robust Quality Management System (QMS). Having recently enhanced our QMS, LSPT is proud to announce we’ve been certified to the latest revision of the AS9100D quality standard.

AS9100 is a widely standardized quality management system used by aerospace manufacturers and suppliers around the world. It was established in 1999 and has since gone through several revisions as new requirements are added. The latest update, AS9100 Revision D, includes expanded clauses dealing with product safety, counterfeit parts prevention and risk management. You can read more about the latest revision here, or visit SAE International to purchase a copy of the standard.

LSPT has been preparing for the latest AS9100 revision for some time, working through an internal quality committee and process champions to ensure a holistic approach to QMS compliance. LSPT Quality Manager Brian Brown has overseen the transition and shepherded the organization through successful integration of a revised QMS.

LSPT’s Quality Policy highlights the organization’s core objectives:

LSP Technologies quality policy

We provide services and equipment that enhance the satisfaction of our customers, and we continually work to improve the effectiveness of our processes.

These core principles have guided LSPT through fifteen years providing metal enhancement solutions for the aerospace industry, but our commitment to quality has never been exclusive to our aerospace partners. LSPT brings this same focus to all business relationships, and we’re committed to serving customers from all industries with the same level of excellence in service.

Discover the LSPT difference. Check out our new quality certificate and read our recent interview with Quality Manager Brian Brown.

We’re here to add value to your business.

Contact us today to learn more.


Dispelling Four Myths About Laser Peening

 

Laser shock peening (LSP) is a powerful process for enhancing metal parts. Laser peening improves metal fatigue resistance, enabling OEMs and their customers to get more out of high-value components. LSP has been around for decades, yet there are still plenty of myths and misunderstandings surrounding this surface enhancement solution.

Picture of gears with the words "myth" and "fact"Myth #1: Laser peening is just a high-tech version of shot peening.

Many people still erroneously equate laser peening with shot peening, but these applications remain worlds apart in both their capabilities and results.

Shot peening bombards a metal surface with little pellets or balls. Laser peening uses high-energy light pulses to generate powerful plasma explosions. Do those two processes sound at all like the same thing?

Imagine I gave you two options: Catch a fastball from a professional baseball pitcher or catch a burning stick of dynamite. It’s no contest, right? A 100-mph fastball will make your hand sting, but a LITERAL EXPLOSION will remove that hand altogether.

This gives you a sense of the magnitude discrepancy between these surface enhancement treatments. Shot peening is archaic, shallow, and imprecise. Laser peening is deep, powerful, and cutting-edge.

There are countless advantages to laser peening over shot peening, but the biggest difference simply comes down to results: Laser peening generates deeper compressive stress for longer lasting parts. In some cases, the residual stress depth and part life extensions surpass shot peening by an order of magnitude.

There really is no comparison. And yet the myth persists – possibly perpetuated by shot peening providers? Some even refer to laser peening as “Laser Shot Peening”, which is a woeful misnomer akin to calling your 3D printer a “Laser Forge”.

Myth #2: Laser peening is a thermal process

When most people think of industrial lasers, they typically picture welding, cutting, or drilling. These processes use the laser beam as a concentrated heat source to melt or remove material, relying mainly on thermal energy to do the work. Lasers are great for these applications because they deliver carefully calibrated energy with high precision. A laser can apply intense heat to a targeted area while leaving the surrounding material relatively unaffected.

Illustration of the laser peening process including laser beam, process overlays, plasma burst, and shockwave propagation into componentLaser peening operates on a slightly different principle. For one, it’s a pulsed laser application, meaning the energy is delivered in short pulses rather than a continuous beam. Each pulse lasts just a few billionths of a second, and the thermal load transferred to the metal is limited. These short, concentrated pulses generate plasma bursts on the part surface, and that plasma powers a mechanical shockwave which does the work in the part.

Laser peening is all about that shockwave. (That’s why it’s called laser shock peening.) The shockwave energy propagates into the material producing compressive residual stress. The more powerful the shockwave, the deeper and more robust the compressive stress. The energy in the shockwave isn’t derived from the heat of the laser, but rather the pressure generated by rapidly expanding plasma on the metal surface.

Laser peening is a means of turning light energy into mechanical work.

Myth #3: Laser peening is only for aerospace

Laser peening was born out of a need for superior cracking prevention in aircraft engine components. It was first adopted by the U.S. Air Force and major engine manufacturers. This was a natural fit as aircraft engine blades operate at high performance thresholds and have high consequences of failure.

After demonstrating major benefits in aerospace, LSP adoption quickly spread to gas turbine manufacturing for the power generation industry. Laser peening was shown to reduce costly inspection and maintenance requirements, and the nuclear industry also developed LSP applications to extend the service life of critical infrastructure.

Each successive year has brought new industries and applications into the fold as manufacturers seek superior enhancement to get more life out of components. Laser peening is as versatile as it is powerful, making it a veritable Swiss army knife for metal enhancement applications.

Composite image of different metals including steel, titanium, and bronze

Laser peening works on all metals

A few key points:

  • Laser peening works on all metals, with a wide range of power densities and application patterns to enhance any surface.
  • Laser peening is a precision application that delivers targeted enhancement where components need it most.
  • Laser peening applications can be reliably modeled to optimize process parameters before a single pulse is fired.

The potential applications for laser peening are limited only by our willingness to explore them. Aerospace and power gen manufacturers were early adopters because the benefits were clear on their high-value equipment. Now, as laser peening production costs continue to decrease, a whole host of new industries can get in on the savings as we dispel our final myth…

Myth #4: Laser peening is too expensive

It’s easy to understand what’s contributed to this myth. Laser peening sounds high-tech, sophisticated, and presumably expensive. However recent innovations have led to significant declines in production costs, and the ROI associated with component life extension pays for itself many times over.

In the early days, laser peening equipment was fairly costly and slow. First-generation systems delivered one pulse every few seconds, limiting production throughput and keeping costs high.

Fast-forward to today, and everything has changed. Laser peening processing rates have improved many times over, and the knowledge around LSP applications is growing by leaps and bounds.

PROCUDO® Laser Peening System on a Neutral BackgroundA major factor has been advancements in laser technology, and the move from flashlamp pumped laser systems to those powered by diodes. Diode-pumped systems are vastly more efficient and can speed up processing rates by a factor of ten.

LSP Technologies’ diode-pumped Procudo® Laser Peening System operates at speeds up to 20 Hz. This substantial improvement in production throughput lowers the cost of processing each part. Automation solutions and advancements in robotics allow for seamless automated part-handling, and the growing knowledge base around LSP is accelerating application development and qualification.

All this adds up to cheaper production costs that are making laser peening accessible to new industries. Meanwhile, the cost savings associated with component life extension, failure prevention, and reduced maintenance requirements provide a clear return on investment that is unmatched by other surface treatment applications.

The bottom line: this ain’t your granddad’s laser peening. Today’s equipment is faster, more efficient, and optimized for high-volume production processing. Laser peening can deliver a 10X improvement on shot peening and the ROI speaks for itself.

Don’t believe the myths.

Connect with an expert at LSPT to learn more.



Tragic Engine Failure on Southwest Airlines Flight

Tragedy struck Southwest Airlines flight 1380 on Tuesday when an engine failure prompted an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport. The Boeing 737 was about 40 minutes into a scheduled flight to Dallas when a sudden jolt startled passengers and crew.

“Everybody was going crazy,” passenger Marty Martinez told CNN. “I heard a loud boom, and about five seconds later, all the oxygen masks deployed.”

tweet showing investigators looking at damaged jet engine

Official tweet from the NTSB Newsroom

Shortly after the explosion, as passengers scrambled to secure oxygen and seat belts, a piece of debris thrown from the engine smashed a cabin window. A woman was partially sucked out as the aircraft depressurized, and nearby passengers rushed to pull her back into the plane.

After securing the injured woman in her seat, a nurse aboard the flight performed CPR while frightened passengers tried to plug the broken window with blankets and clothes. The harrowing ordeal left many on board badly shaken, and passengers reported the uncertainty of whether they would land safely.

“The next 20-25 minutes telling my wife and parents I loved them and what I wanted them to pass on to my unborn son,” said passenger Matt Tranchin speaking with 3AW radio Melbourne. “You don’t want to pass up the opportunity to say goodbye.”

Passengers have praised pilot Tammie Jo Shults, a former F/A-18 pilot in the U.S. Navy, for her poise in getting the aircraft safely on the ground. Her exchanges with air traffic control show exceptional composure despite the chaos unfolding on board her aircraft. “We have part of the plane missing. So we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” Shults told air traffic controllers as the crippled plane rerouted to Philly. “They said there is a hole and someone went out.”

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Laser Peening Applications for the Maritime Industry

Laser Shock Peening (LSP) has protected high-value aerospace parts for more than twenty years. Now, the shipbuilding industry looks to laser peening to reduce maintenance on critical naval vessels.

LSP Technologies has partnered with Hepburn and Sons, LLC, a naval engineering consultancy headquartered in Manassas, Virginia. Together, LSPT and Hepburn and Sons are working with shipbuilders to develop laser peening applications for vessel construction and maintenance. Of particular interest is laser peening’s powerful impact on sensitization resistance and the ability to form compound curvatures.

LSP Technologies hosted an event in February highlighting successes from a recent development project with the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP). The event brought in attendees from various U.S. shipbuilders, the American Bureau of Shipping, and the U.S. Navy.

On the heels of a successful research program and showcase event, LSPT released a video outlining the maritime benefits of laser peening, and the ultimate goal of getting laser shock peening equipment into U.S. shipyards. You can watch the video below, or click here to view it on YouTube.

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Production Laser Peening Extends Component Life Up To 20X

LSP Technologies Sales Director Doug Eberhart seated at his deskLSP Technologies is featured in the March 2018 issue of Metal Finishing News (MFN). The magazine interviewed LSPT Sales Director Doug Eberhart, getting his inside perspective on production laser peening for metal component enhancement. The article is reproduced below. You can read the original version here.

Doug Eberhart, Director of Sales at LSP Technologies has spent over 30 years directing B2B sales efforts around the world. With specialized experience delivering sophisticated instrumentation and software products, Mr. Eberhart has been engaged with the high-tech industrial and manufacturing sectors throughout his distinguished career. He joined LSP Technologies in 2016.

Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Eberhart. Can you give us some background about yourself and your professional career?

I’ve been in sales all my life. My early career was focused on the Asia Pacific manufacturing sector, where I directed sales teams across the region. I’ve spent many years selling high-tech instrumentation and monitoring solutions, serving a range of industries from power generation to water treatment. Continue reading


Laser Shock Peening: A Metal Fatigue Solution for All Metals and Alloys

Precision Component Enhancement

Laser Shock Peening (LSP) is a universal metal fatigue solution for enhancing all metals and alloys. LSP generates powerful shock waves that produce a tailored field of deep compressive residual stress. This robust compressive layer inhibits cracking beneath the surface, extending component lifetimes 10X or more.

Graphs showing 10X life increase for laser peened titanium

Laser peening is a precise, strategic enhancement process that is customized for each unique component. Laser peening is applied to select locations on the part surface to impede cracking and improve fatigue performance.

Drawings of metal components with laser peening spot patterns for fatigue improvement

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