With the College of the Canyons welding technology department’s recent installation of the HDEm Pulsed Laser Weld Monitoring System at the Valencia campus — the first ever installed at an educational institution — COC welding students are now able to learn the ins and outs of one of the industry’s most innovative processes.
“Normally, when you’re using a laser welder we’re talking about using a focused light (laser) beam to do the welding,” said Tim Baber, chair of the college’s welding technology department. “But since the laser welding process is very fast it’s hard to get an accurate real time assessment of the quality weld.
“Our new laser weld monitor measures certain properties of the laser beam and the welded metal, which provides feedback so instructors can assess the quality of the weld and identify the location and the nature of weld defects,” added Baber.
The HDEm system uses an external ‘smart’ camera that is attached to the focusing head of the welding system which allows detection of gaps in the weld joint, mechanical interferences with the weld and the overall quality of welds produced by the laser.
Funding to purchase the HDEm device and develop the corresponding curriculum for student training was made possible through a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to the college to train students as advanced manufacturing and processing technicians and help meet current and future industry demand.
According to Baber, COC is the first learning institution of any kind to possess a laser weld monitor — meaning many students at the college are training with technology that most 20-year industry veterans don’t even have access to.”
“This technology was driven by the call of medical, automotive, aerospace and electronic industries to tackle the shortage of skilled labor,” said Simon Engel, president of HDE Technologies and the inventor of the weld monitor.
“The techniques industry currently uses to assess the quality of laser welds are expensive and provide limited data,” Engel added. “With the laser weld monitoring system, students will learn about laser welding and how to accurately assess and digitally report the quality of the welds within seconds after the welds are completed.”
Baber and Engel’s relationship dates back to their time together working with the American Welding Society. Both are esteemed members of the Laser Welding Standards Subcommittee, of which Engel serves as vice chair.
With the recent installation, COC welding students now have their hands on a phenomenal opportunity to get ahead in an industry primed for rapid growth.
“Our ultimate goal is getting students as ready to go to work as possible, and to have more than just a conventional exposure to the industry,” Baber said.