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Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre

The Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre specialises in fundamental, strategic and applied research in the area of advanced fusion joining processes and high deposition rate additive built structures. Established in 1961, the recently refurbished Centre is situated on an area of 700 m2 and houses a variety of laser and arc welding facilities with a large scale material handling facility. Welding facilities are mostly equipped with robots to enable automated welding. The laboratory also uses state-of-the-art quantitative analysis facilities to characterise and model weld processes necessary for fundamental analysis of a process. The Centre also runs a Masters programme in Welding Engineering.

  • Our impact and facilities

    The Centre works very closely with its industrial clientele and has a significant research impact in many key industrial sectors such as onshore and offshore pipeline manufacturing. The research impact of the Centre was recognised in the 2010-2011 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's 'Research Performance and Economic Impact' report.

    Many years of research work carried out at the Centre has resulted in significant impact in the area of manufacturing technologies.

    The Cranfield Automated Pipeline Welding Systems (CAPS) project worked on improving the productivity of pipeline welding over the traditional GMAW welding. Together with power source and welding bug manufacturers, the Centre researched developing a dual tandem system which deposited weld metal four times faster as compared to a single wire traditional process. The work was sponsored by BP and application of the process will result into significant cost savings. Field trials of more than 100 km proved the robustness of the process in terms of quality of joints produced. Cranfield University was awarded the prestigious Pipeline Industries Guild (PIG) prize in 2008 for this work in land-based pipeline welding technologies.

    Hyperbaric welding is another area where significant impact has been made. Research at Cranfield University has enabled the world's deepest subsea welds to be made. Recent trials in a Norwegian fjord involving Dr Neil Woodward of Isotek Oil & Gas Ltd, on behalf of Statoil, demonstrated pipeline applications of fully remote hot tap welding at 265 and 350 msw and sleeve repair welding at 370 and 940 msw.

    Cranfield University has the world's highest pressure dry hyperbaric welding chamber to simulate up to 2,500 msw water depth. The chamber has an internal diameter of 1 m and is capable of orbital and positional welding with pressures up to 250 bar. This chamber was  funded by EPSRC and installed in 1997. Between 1997 and 2002 detailed research was carried out into gas metal arc and plasma welding at high pressures. Following the success of this research, pre-qualification and qualification development work has been performed by industry using the chamber with the support of the University. This has culminated in successful deep sea trials.

    Our key facilities include:

    • Laser welding - The Centre is equipped with a large high power continuous wave Nd-YAG fiber laser of 8 kW peak power. The laser is delivered through an optical fibre to a laser head mounted on a 7-axes robot which is located in a large chamber with type IV safety features. The laser can be focussed at distances varying from 100-500 mm and the minimum spot size is 0.67 mm
    • Laser characterisation equipment - The beam profiler is used to measure the laser intensity and beam profile. This laser is used for research into laser-metal interaction, laser-arc hybrid welding for high productive processes and dissimilar alloy welding where the spatial resolution and dimension of weld pool formation is controlled through controlled laser irradiation
      There are three more lasers, a 9 kW peak power pulsed laser with average energy of 300 J, a 20 W fiber laser for cutting and drilling application and a pulsed Nd-YAG laser used for drilling applications. These are used for different application varying from fundamental research of laser welding mode under different incumbent pressure to micro welding of medical parts
    • High Value Engineering Research Facility (HiVE) - This facility is created for industrial scale additive manufacturing using wire and arc based technology. This facility has a large working envelope of 4m × 3m × 1m and is be equipped with machining and rolling facility to produce near net shape components and also to re-engineer microstructural features to improve structural soundness
    • Arc welding facility with state-of-the-art variant of GTAW (TOPTIG, inter-pulsed TIG), GMAW (Cold Metal Transfer, Cold Arc) and Plasma arc welding power sources eg. force arc manufactured by the leading power source manufacturers eg. Fronius, EWM, Lincoln
    • Five welding robots and a variety of advanced motion systems, gas mixers, etc
    • Instrumenting and imaging facility necessary to understand the physics of a process and also has facilities like gas mixing, glove box, specialised chambers and enclosures for performing welding under different atmospheric conditions
    • Two hyperbaric facilities one of which can go up to 250 bar of pressure simulating the condition of 2.5 km under seawater. The other one can go up to 40 bar (can also create vacuum in the order of 10-2 bar)  and this chamber is equipped with laser welding accessories to perform fundamental study of laser behaviour under different incumbent pressure.
  • Working with us

    The Centre is predominantly an applied research organisation and offers a number of ways for industries to participate and collaborate. This spans from the sponsoring of an individual Masters thesis project to collaborating through a large rolling technology programme.

    Principally industries can work with us in the following ways:

    • Sponsoring of Masters projects – generally this ranges between two to four months
    • PhD studentship – PhD students (fully sponsored by an industry) can be an employee of the sponsoring industry in which case he or she will be able to effectively transfer the knowledge generated. Alternatively a PhD student can be sponsored through the Doctoral Training Centre if the industry is aligned to the specific subject
    • Research Fellowship – This is generally through employment of a suitable person for an industry sponsored project. The research fellowship can be full or part-time
    • Participation in our rolling technology development programme on high deposition rate metal additive manufacture
    • Supporting a project as part of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser Based Production Processes
    • Specific research consultancy.
  • Current research projects

  • Postgraduate degrees

    • PhD - School of Energy, Environment and Agrifood:

      Suitable for candidates wishing to combine the depth of a doctoral course with a broad foundation of knowledge and skills in your area of specialisation.

    • Welding Engineering

      Welding is integral to the manufacture of a wide-range of products, from high power laser welding of large ships, to microjoining of thin wires to circuit boards.

  • Professional Development (CPD)

    Our short courses are held throughout the year and we are able to offer bespoke courses in-company on request.

  • Case studies and clients

    The Centre has many stakeholders from UK and EU Government bodies, industrial clientele and power source manufacturers to suppliers and developers of filler wires, shielding gases.
    Goverment bodies:

    • DSTL
    • EPSRC
    • EU
    • TSB.

    Industrial clientele (sponsors) are mainly in the following areas:

    • Aerospace (Airbus, ARA, Bombardier)
    • Aero-engines (Rolls-Royce)
    • Defence (Lockheed Martin, BAE)
    • Nuclear (AWE)
    • Onshore and offshore pipeline manufacturers (Subsea7, BP, Heerema marine corps)
    • Shipbuilding (BAE surface ship)
    • Small and medium enterprises (Attica components in medical sector).

    The area of welding power source manufacturers we work with:

    • Air Liquide
    • Lincoln.
    • There are currently no case studies listed in this area.