At IHC Vremac Cylinders, we have installed a state-of-the-art laser-cladding machine in our welding department – the first of its kind in a production facility such as this. This machine is used to clad steel or stainless-steel piston rods for hydraulic cylinders, and is faster, more accurate and more environmentally friendly than the conventional cladding methods used by our competitors.
A high-speed alternative
The basis of our machine is a lathe. The piston rod rotates, while the laser unit gradually moves along it and clads it in this manner. The top welding speed is 200 metres per minute! Typically the speed is set around 20 metres per minute to give us greater control of layer thickness.
The machine can coat layers of 30 micrometres and even thinner, with extremely low dilution. The accuracy is also higher, resulting in a more efficient and environmentally friendly finishing process.
An efficient process
Having this machine in-house has further enhanced the quality of the cladding process. It shortens the supply chain and makes us more competitive. It also avoids any potential damage while the piston rod is in transit.
Thanks to the new machine, we can now perform repair work and explore different types of cladding material. We are now able to combine alloys in a way that other processes can’t, and we believe there is a huge potential for other applications as well. For instance, we’re also analysing water-glycol, and in a few years’ time, we think we will see hydraulic cylinders working on water.
Exciting opportunities for offshore vessels
Additional research will help us to showcase the advantages of this new technology. As ceramic coating is still preferred in the offshore industry, we prefer to speak to customers before they even order a vessel, so we can discuss the benefits of laser cladding.
We’ve been researching laser-clad coatings at IHC Vremac Cylinders since 2008. In 2014, our focus switched to the techniques available, and which would be most suitable both now and in the future. Based on the high quality achievable and the opportunities open to us, this technique is certainly here to stay.