Patent application title: LASER-INDUCED METALLURGICAL BONDING DRIVEN WITHOUT CONTACT
Glenn S. Daehn (Columbus, OH, US)
John C. Lippold (Hilliard, OH, US)
THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
IPC8 Class: AB23K2620FI
Class name: By arc using laser welding
Publication date: 2012-05-03
Patent application number: 20120103949
A laser, aimed at a flyer plate tab, causes optical energy to be directed
at the tab, specifically, at a top surface thereof. Energy impacting the
tab accelerates the tab into an impact with a target sheet in a time on
the order of about 10-5 seconds. The impact occurs in excess of 100
m/s, resulting in a metallurgical bond between the tab and the target
sheet. The laser preferably strikes the top surface in a normal
direction, based upon an initial angularity of the tab relative to the
target. The laser emission may be augmented by an ablative layer on the
top surface or a transparent covering on the top surface that reacts
against the expanding gas from ablative activity on the top surface. The
weld is formed without physical contact between the welding device and
1. A system for producing a metallurgical bond of a flyer plate to a
target sheet, by accelerating a tab of the flyer plate into the target
sheet, comprising: a means for positioning the flyer plate and target
sheet relative to each other, such that the tab is offset from the target
sheet prior to being accelerated; and a means for inducing the
acceleration of the tab into the target sheet without physical contact
with the tab.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein: the means for inducing the acceleration is a pulse laser.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein: the pulse laser is positioned to direct an energy beam therefrom onto a top surface of the tab.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein: the pulse laser is positioned to initially strike the tab in a substantially normal direction.
5. The system of claim 1, wherein: the tab extends away from the target sheet at an acute angle.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein: the acute angle is in the range of from about 5 to about 20 degrees.
7. The system of claim 6, wherein: the acute angle and the power of the means for inducing acceleration are selected such that at least a distal end of the tab strikes the target sheet at an impact velocity of at least 100 m/s.
8. The system of claim 7, wherein: the distal end is accelerated to the impact velocity in a time on the order of about 10.sup.-5 seconds.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein: the tab provides a gap between the flyer plate and the target sheet.
10. The system of claim 9, wherein: the size of the gap and the power of the means for inducing acceleration are selected such that at least a distal end of the tab strikes the target plate at an impact velocity of at least 100 m/s.
11. The system of claim 10, wherein: the distal end is accelerated to the impact velocity in a time on the order of about 10.sup.-5 seconds.
12. The system of claim 1, wherein: the means for inducing acceleration causes a distal end of the tab to accelerate to an impact velocity of at least 100 m/s in a time on the order of about 10.sup.-5 seconds.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application is a divisional of, and claims benefit of priority to, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/921,249, filed 7 Sep. 2010, which is scheduled to issue as U.S. Pat. No. 8,084,710 on 27 Dec. 2011, which is In turn a national stage entry of PCT/US2009/036499, filed 9 Mar. 2009 and which claims the benefit of priority under 35 USC 119 to, U.S. provisional application 61/034,574, filed on 7 Mar. 2008. All of these cited patent applications are incorporated by reference as if fully recited herein.
 The present invention is in the field of collision joining. Specifically, the present invention relates to the use of a laser or some other energy source such as focused non-coherent light or by vaporization of a metal foil by an electrical discharge to impart momentum to an article to be collision joined.
BACKGROUND OF THE ART
 The joining of similar and dissimilar metals is a technical topic that is of great practical importance and can be quite problematic. This is an issue that is important in a variety of industries such as the automotive, aerospace, medical, micro-electronics, and food and beverage industries. Broadly there are two ways that joints can be formed between metals: mechanical interlocks or metallurgical bonds. There are a variety of subcategories of each of these.
 Mechanical interlocks can be formed along linear features by variants on folding metal across itself to create folded seams. Examples of this kind of joining can be found in the joints that hold can ends on can bodies and automobile closure panels such as doors where an outer panel is interlocked with an inner panel with a fold known as a hem. Mechanical interlocks can also be used at a discrete location. This kind of feature is known as a clinch or clinch-lock and is produced by deforming two sheets of metal into two interlocking cup-like or reentrant features. This type of interlock is almost universally used to hold the tab onto the end of a beverage can.
 Joining between metal components is often accomplished by welding, where the defining characteristic is that the two metal surfaces become adhered to one another. This is typically done where both metals are melted (by heat provided in one of numerous ways) until the two metals become mixed (sometimes with a filler metal added) and upon solidification a joint is formed. Fusion welding has two very significant drawbacks. First, it is limited to alloys that make compatible pairs when mixed. Many alloy systems will form brittle intermetallics when mixed and this provides poor mechanical performance. Second, the heat that is deposited in the weld zone usually dramatically softens the material adjacent to the weld and the melted and solidified material itself may be quite weak or brittle. As a result, the metals that make up welded structures typically have quite low strength in the region that makes up the weld. Other related alternatives to fusion welding also exist. Solid state welding can be accomplished by variants of resistance or of spot welding, high velocity collision welding (as is usually accomplished using explosives) and ultrasonic welding. Also, interlayers can be used in methods such as brazing and soldering. These techniques can all have significant disadvantages for when considering specific applications.
 It is well known that if two relatively clean metal surfaces collide with an appropriate velocity (usually over 200 m/s and typically in the range of from about 150 to 500 m/s) and the impact angle is within a proper range (usually about 15 degrees and typically in the range of from about 5 to about 25 degrees) the two surfaces may adhere forming a metallurgical joint. This technology is well developed and fairly well understood and practiced in explosive welding and electromagnetic welding. In both these cases a sheet known as a flyer plate is usually driven at high speed either by the explosive or electromagnetic force and strikes a sheet that is often thicker referred to as a target. Upon striking there is little overall increase in temperature and the material is often hardened by the local plastic strain of impact. Similar or dissimilar metals can be joined in this manner as there is not sufficient time or temperature for the formation of brittle intermetallics. Metallurgical joints formed in this manner can have the strength of the parent material.
 However, explosion welding has some disadvantages, not the least of which are the safety and containment issues associated with the process. Additionally, it is very difficult to couple explosives or magnetic pulse energy to small structures (on the order of millimeters or smaller). However, collision processes also have some tremendous advantages; most notably the fact that virtually any metal combination can be joined using this process. Because the heat required for joining is localized at the interface and quickly dissipated by the materials that are being joined, explosion welds typically do not form large or interconnected regions of embrittling intermetallic compounds (even in complex systems) and the residual stresses generated are essentially nil. For these reasons, the potential for joining materials using high velocity collisions that do not require the use of explosives offers the potential for joining otherwise difficult (or impossible) to join materials. These include many of the advanced structural materials based on intermetallic compounds, composites, nano-structured materials and metallic glasses.
 The present invention uses intense laser discharges or some other energy source to provide a mechanical impulse to a metal surface by one of a variety of mechanisms. Direct reflection of photons provides some level of force and impulse. Also, the surface of the metal may ablate under the beam and this generated gas can also produce a pressure that accelerates the flyer. The metal surface may also be coated with a polymer or other material that better absorbs optical energy and/or is more easily ablated. This can generate the same impulse at reduced laser energy. One additional way to increase the efficiency of converting the optical energy to mechanical impulse is by placing an optically-transparent material opposed to the ablated surface to provide a surface to oppose the generation of the expanding gas. This will help to accelerate the flyer plate.
 One tremendous advantage of this technique over electromagnetic or explosive launching is that the shock can be directed to a precise location (sub-micron precision) and at a precise time (precision of <10-5 seconds). The ability to apply enormous pressure at exact and localized points on a material interface and to do so with timing accuracy allows the present invention to create welds in applications involving micro/nano interfaces.
 One particularly attractive product that can be made with this technology is the joint between the can tab and can end that is part of almost all conventional aluminum and steel beverage cans. Presently this joint is created as a mechanical interlock. A protrusion is developed on the can end using multiple sequential stamping operations by a technique referred to as progressive stamping. Once this protrusion (that takes on a shape resembling a cylinder with an open bottom) is created, the tab is placed over it such that the protrusion goes through a hole in the tab and then the protrusion is peened down to capture the tab. This requires significant ductility of the material that makes up the can end. This kind of ductility is generally only found in metals of relatively low strength. Because the metal must be relatively weak to maintain acceptable formability, the can-end metal must be relatively thick to accommodate the structural needs of the can. In principle the tab could also be spot welded to the end, however, this would produce a severely weakened zone in the proximity of the weld nugget and again this would necessitate a thicker than optimum weld zone. The present invention overcomes the limitations of prior art joining techniques providing an ideal solution for placing a tab on a can end as both the tab and end can be produced from thin sections of high strength material and the as-produced strength of both materials is maintained through the joining process. Accordingly, the present invention allows for the can end to be fabricated from a thinner piece of higher strength material, thus saving weight and cost in the can and producing associated environmental benefits.
 These effects may be realized by a method for producing a spot impact weld between a first part and a second part. The method is conducted by providing the first and second parts, with a portion of the first part extending bent at an angle out of a generally planar surface of the remainder of the first part. The first and second parts are positioned on a support backing, with the second part between the first part and the support backing. The first part is positioned so that the second part underlies at least the bent portion of the first part with the bent portion bent away from the second part. A laser is aligned to direct its emitted energy at a top surface of the bent portion. At least one pulse of optical energy is directed from the laser onto the top surface, the amount of energy being sufficient to cause the bent portion to straighten and impact the underlying second part with a velocity of at least 100 m/s, resulting in a metallurgical bond between the respective parts.
 In some aspects, the laser is aligned relative to the bent portion so that the first of the at least one pulses is substantially normal to the bent portion.
 In some aspects, the angle of the bent portion is in the range of from about 10 to about 20 degrees.
 To augment the inventive effect, many embodiments will comprise the step of interposing a layer of an ablative material on the top surface of the bent portion prior to the step of directing the at least one optical energy pulse.
 Another augmentation of the effect may occur from covering the top surface, or the ablative material on the top surface, if the ablative material is present, with a layer of material that is transparent to the optical energy, but that augments an effect from gas emanating from the ablation.
 Some aspects of the invention are achieved by a system for producing a spot impact weld of a first part to a second part. Such a system comprises a laser; and a means for supporting the first and second part during a spot welding procedure.
 In many of these systems, the laser is a pulse laser capable of depositing a directed optical energy beam onto a portion of the first part.
 In some aspects, the laser is adapted to be aimed to direct the optical energy beam therefrom in a line that is substantially normal to a top surface of the bent portion.
 Still further aspects of the invention are achieved by a spot welded product produced by the any one of the above methods.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Better understanding of the invention, and particularly, the disclosed embodiments thereof, will be had when reference is made to the accompanying drawings, wherein identical parts are identified with identical reference numbers and wherein:
 FIG. 1 schematically illustrates a system for practicing one embodiment of the present invention; and
 FIG. 2 schematically illustrates an article by the system of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
 In accordance with the foregoing summary, the following presents a detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention that is currently considered to be the best mode.
 FIG. 1 depicts a system 100 for the practice of the present invention in accordance with one embodiment thereof. The system comprises a high powered laser 102 aimed at a flyer plate 108 positioned on the target sheet 110 to which the flyer plate tab 108a will be welded. The target sheet is supported by a mechanically-stiff back support 112. The angle a 114 between the flyer plate tab 108a and target sheet 110 is about 15 degrees, but may fall in the range of from about 5 degrees to about 20 degrees. An offset distance without an angle can also permit the two surfaces to impact at an appropriate angle for impact welding.
 The high power pulsed laser 102 is capable of depositing from 0.1 to 100 Joules of optical energy focused in a local area on the top surface of flyer plate tab 108a in approximately 1 microsecond or less. The energy focused on the flyer plate tab 108a is accelerated by the interaction of the incident laser beam 104 and top surface of the flyer plate, causing the flyer plate tab 108a to impact target sheet 110 at a velocity in excess of 100 m/s to thereby develop a metallurgical bond upon impact. The metallurgical bond may have a surface area of from less than about 1 mm2 to about 100 mm2.
 The system may be augmented by placing an absorptive and/or ablative layer 116 on the top surface of the flyer plate tab 108a and/or by placing a transparent backing 106 so as to allow it to react against the expanding gas caused by ablation emanating from the top surface of the flyer plate tab 108a.
 The ablative layer 116 may be formed from a variety of materials that efficiently ablate when struck with laser beam 104. For example, the ablative layer may be a carbon deposit or cellophane-type material. The ablative layer may be shaped (i.e., increasing in thickness in one direction, having a pyramidal shape, etc.) or may be provided as a film having a near constant thickness.
 The transparent backing 106 may be formed of any material through which the laser beam 104 may pass without significant loss in optical energy in order to provide sufficient velocity so as to weld the flyer plate tab 108 to target sheet 110. Suitable materials include, but are not limited to, sapphire, quartz, glasses, transparent liquids, such as water, and polymers.
 Acceleration may also be done with some other energy source such as focused non-coherent light or by vaporization of a metal foil by an electrical discharge. In either of these cases, a metallurgical bond is created through a collision that is effected without a physical contact between the device causing the impact and the workpiece being accelerated.
 Also, it is noted that while the specific embodiment taught herein shows a flyer plate tab which is bent away from an otherwise planar member as the surface that is being accelerated into a bond-forming collision with another member, it will be clear to one of skill in this art that the requisite features for practice of the concept described herein are an energy source that can generate the requisite amount of acceleration by impacting the surface and a gap between the members being joined. As to the gap, it is noted that the gap should be sufficiently large to allow the acceleration to occur, but, at the same instant, be sufficiently small to efficiently limit the power needed to effect the acceleration.
 FIG. 2 presents the article 200 produced by welding the flyer plate tab 108a of flyer plate 108 to the target sheet 110. A metallurgical bond 202 exists between the flyer plate tab 108a and target sheet 100.
Patent applications by Glenn S. Daehn, Columbus, OH US
Patent applications by John C. Lippold, Hilliard, OH US
Patent applications by THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Patent applications in class Welding
Patent applications in all subclasses Welding