Laser Peen Forming Applications Create Complex Curves and Shapes

LSP Technologies sees growing demand in applications for aerospace, maritime, and architecture, as manufacturers and designers seek to enhance their precision shaping toolbox

Posted: May 17, 2021
By: mmahoney

Laser Peen Forming continues to draw interest for creative applications in aerospace, shipbuilding and repair, and complex architectural designs.
The process applies the force of Laser Peening to achieve precise curves to shape a wide range of alloys while maintaining or improving metal fatigue life.
Laser Peen Forming also can provide precise straightening of metallic components to restore them to within their tolerance requirements. This dimension of the technology enhances traditional metal forming processes with FEA-powered precision.
The innovative process can create dual/compound curvatures in aluminum alloys, steel alloys, and other metals in relatively large geometries and thicknesses.

Aerospace, Maritime, and Architectural Applications

  • Emerging applications for Laser Peen Forming include:
  • Precise shaping of metal plates to repair Navy ship hulls can save time and add stability in maritime maintenance operations.
  • • Laser peen forming can shape new aerospace parts for wings and other aerospace components can be fitted out more precisely with laser peen forming, which stabilizes elastically strained shapes.
laser peen forming - aviation
  • • Architects and mechanical engineers can stretch the limits of creative metal shapes with laser peen forming while enhancing strength and stability.
Structures like the Dublin, Ohio, pedestrian bridge across the Scioto River spur imaginative shapes that may be created through laser peen forming.

More Powerful Metal Shaping

New Laser Peen Forming applications reveal several advantages compared to some of the most widely used metal shaping processes. For example, the Laser Peen Forming process can form aluminum shapes much thicker than shot peening or age/creep forming.
Depending on the thickness of the metal, laser peen forming controls the amount of deformation and bending through the standard set of laser peening parameters, including the laser spot size, laser energy level, and the number of layers of laser peening.
The first chart, below, shows how laser peening increases the bending in a 4 mm thick alloy when the number of layers – that is, repeated laser peening patterns in the same area of the piece – progresses from one layer to six layers.

Next, laser peen forming (in the chart below) with wider spots diminishes the concentrated bending effect of laser peening. Moving from a spot size of 4 mm to 6 mm to 12 mm, decreases the inches of bending in a controlled progression.

Also, laser peen forming applications can perform well either in isolation or “free forming,” as well as with elastic pre-strained shapes, or in combination with mechanical forming, providing customers with a variety of effective options.
The FEA-based precision of the process, as well as its flexibility, holds promise for the creation of complex curvatures across an extensive array of aluminum alloys and thicknesses.

Illustrating compound curvatures (bottom) achieved with precisely engineered patterns of laser peen forming (top).

Precision and Creativity Laser Peen Forming

“The elegance of Laser Peen Forming is largely its precision, the creativity it allows, and the resistance to metal fatigue,” said Stan Bovid, LSP Technologies Director of Materials Research.
“Also, Laser Peen Forming can shape thicker aluminum shapes than shot peening or age/creep forming. This effectively gives metal fabricators a lot of flexibility in shaping and design,” Bovid said.

Flexible Laser Peen Forming Methods

There are three basic methodologies for Laser Peen Forming:

  • In the “free forming” processes, the component starts often as a flat metal shape. We mount the part on a robot for programmable laser peening. The process progressively shapes the part according to a carefully calculated pattern to produce desired bends and curves.
  • “The free forming process employs no additional constraint whatsoever and just lets the laser peening process do all of the forming itself,” Bovid said. “This method performs well for complex curvature panels and creating large shapes that are uniform across their dimensions, or alternatively it can be used to create a dome shape.”
laseer peen forming - examples of free forming
Examples of free forming laser peening show the ability to create and control complex shapes through patterns of laser peening.

  • In the Elastic Pre-Strained methodology, we pre-strain or constrain the part to modify the standard strain input. “By attaching the shape that you want to form to a panel, we selectively restrain an area of that panel, which will then lock in the strained state during processing,” Bovid said.
laser peen forming - constrained
Two examples of elastic constraint: Left, a 2’x2’ aluminum panel was peen formed to achieve a 25 mm free deflection on the left, but only a 4 mm deflection on the right, the constrained side. Right, a wooden form used to constrain a laser peen formed Titanium curve shape to precise tolerances

  • Using the Combinational method involves combining Laser Peen Forming with mechanical forming techniques to deliver precision shaping.

“We are happy to demonstrate the laser peen forming mechanical processes and the remarkable results they can achieve for customer components,” said David Lahrman, LSP Technologies Vice President of Business Development.

“Ultimately, we will fabricate some extremely interesting shapes and components as a result of this technology, whether in production operations at our headquarters, supplying support at naval shipyards and aviation maintenance facilities, or with equipment we can provide to advanced manufacturers,” Lahrman said.

Interested in Seeing More?

Tell us about your application, material, or failure mechanism and we will have one of our experts reach out to you. Our extensive library of research and years of experience gives us a unique advantage to apply a finite element analysis to help diagnose the best application for your situation.

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