Principal investigator: Ben Campbell, Luis Monterrubio
University: Robert Morris University
Industry partners: MECCO
This project will enhance a partnership between Robert Morris University (RMU) and MECCO (an integrator of laser marking systems) to provide the resources to jointly demonstrate the utility of laser welding systems and develop a product line serving the needs of the plastics manufacturing industry. The use of lasers for plastic welding has recently grown internationally but has not yet significantly penetrated the US market, in part to a lack of domestic companies with expertise in this area. RMU and MECCO have done the preliminary research to show that this is an untapped market that requires a strong knowledge base for entry, and have been working together for two years to develop the foundation to lead the domestic effort in plastic welding. MECCO has proven they can build viable systems with 20 commercial laser welding systems delivered to just one customer with one type of plastic. RMU has proven they can test, analyze and optimize weld parameters with the resources in their Learning Factory. Together, RMU and MECCO can work with prospective customers to show viability of the process across several plastics and industries. RMU faculty and students will work closely with MECCO, testing the thermoplastics most commonly used in manufacturing, molding the samples at RMU, welding them at MECCO and destructively testing them at RMU. This will build a catalog of potential plastics for laser welding and a local knowledge base of expertise. RMU will also assist with the mechanical design of the systems and optimization of processing parameters. With the support of the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program, RMU and MECCO will be able to involve more students and faculty in this effort and accelerate their ability to conduct welding experiments and explore potential customers and markets for this technology.