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Remote in-bore laser welding of nuclear pipelines.

LaserPipe is a collaborative project with TWI Ltd, running from January to December 2015, as part of Innovate UK's competition for feasibility studies under the title: "Developing the civil nuclear supply chain".

The project is looking into the feasibility of in-bore pipe welding using industrial high-powered lasers, coupled with snake-arm robotics for hazardous or confined space deployment.

Modern industrial sites require regular maintenance to replace or repair deteriorated pipes. A result of the challenging environment, confined space and limited external access is that external orbital cutting and welding processes are not viable for many applications and, consequently, in-bore remote processing has generated significant interest in recent years.

The LaserPipe project goal was to develop a compact in-bore laser welding system and investigate the procedures for an all positional laser welding process. The resulting laser welding head was integrated with a snake-arm robot, to demonstrate remote locating of weld joint, alignment of laser, and in-bore laser welding. This concept could also be suitable for in-bore laser cutting.

As part of the feasibility study, the LaserPipe team investigated a number of applications for this technology. One such application is the welding of pipe sections accessible only through pressure vessels, or manifolds and maintenance ports. The animation below is one such example where a snake-arm robot could provide a solution for a limited access environment.

The project outcome was a successful demonstration to industry, conclusively proving the feasibility of in-bore laser welding using snake-arm robot technology for delivery and alignment.

The presentation slides from the project demonstration contain further information and photos from the LaserPipe project. The presentation slides can be downloaded here.