Laser metal deposition (LMD) — also referred to as laser deposition welding — has been a well-established process for years. One example of its use is for tip repair for gas turbine blades from Siemens. The decision to also implement laser welding technology for the service of industrial steam turbines was based primarily on the fact that repairs — especially conventional welds and coatings including heat treatment and testing — are very time consuming and are very difficult to reconcile with the overhaul periods planned by customers. The robot supported automation of the LMD process and the fact of its lower heat input, reduced layer thicknesses and the resulting lowered deformation of the part due to reduced coating areas makes it possible to optimize lead times. The high level of process automation and reliability of a laser welding process represents another important benefit. Similarly, process parameters are constantly monitored and tracked, to ensure that the required quality standards are maintained and even increased. Furthermore, laser metal deposition completely replaced the conventional processes such as tungsten inert gas method (TIG), plasma transferred arc (PTA) and detonation spraying. In addition the technology unleashes now the possibility to repair and refurbish parts instead of new manufacturing, and therefore delivery times can be tremendously reduced. Based on the decision to six-axis robots it becomes possible enhancing the LMD process for complex 3D surfaces. After modeling a digital twin in Siemens NX CAM it is possible to generate, optimize and simulate the whole motion-sequences offline before starting the LMD process in the robot cell. So already designed parts in 3D-CAD can be used to develop the final robot program. In addition already existing technologies like 3D surface scanning will be implemented in the chain to support the LMD process. Digitalization turns from a buzzword to an established technology for industrial steam turbine manufacturing and repair.

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