Video: Conventional Thinking on Laser Cutting Is All Wet

With a jet of water serving as a guide, a cooling medium and a cleaning agent, this laser cutting technology for small features like turbine blade cooling holes suffers none of the traditional process drawbacks.

Engineers at GE Power are cutting turbine blade cooling holes in a manner that, not long ago, would likely never even have been considered. As shown in the video above, the company is using laser, a process that’s renowned for its speed and precision. However, it’s also known for its tendency to leave tapered walls and to imbue the workpiece with geometry-distorting heat as well as machined sludge and other waste material that melts and re-adheres.

Yet, according to GE Reports, such issues aren’t a problem at the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Works facility in Greenville, South Carolina. That’s it is leveraging a different breed of laser cutting technology: Laser Microjet (LMJ), in which the laser beam is fully encased within a pressurized stream of water. Acting very much like a fiber optic cable, this water stream serves as a guide, a cooling mechanism and a cleaning agent all at once. As a result, the company can save significant time drilling turbine blade cooling holes by machining the holes prior to applying the coatings that can’t be penetrated with EDM drills, as opposed to drilling the holes, then removing coating residue.

Those aren’t the only potential applications for LMJ. What’s more, it’s now widely available in North America thanks to an agreement between Swiss developer Synova and Single Source Technologies, an arm of Makino that provides engineering, field service and sales of products that complement the builder’s own milling and EDM lines. Read this feature article to learn more