Laser shock peening improves cavitation resistance - HiLASE and SIGMA GROUP

SIGMA is a major Eastern European producer of pumps that are used in the power generation industry (conventional and nuclear), water management, chemical and petrochemical industry, metallurgy, etc. They want to improve the cavitation erosion resistance of their pump parts so the pumps they offer to their customers have a longer lifetime, an increased time between regular maintenance check-ups, and are more reliable so the risk of the downtime caused by the pump failure is as small as possible.

Cavitation - with and without laser shock peeningCavitation erosion is one of the major concerns in the pump industry. In order to compete, the pump needs to be smaller (and thus cheaper), which makes them more susceptible to cavitation. Thus, there is always demand for (economically feasible) solutions, helping to mitigate the negative effects of cavitation.

HiLASE in cooperation with Sigma Research and Development Institute and Centre of Hydraulic Research have developed the Laser Shock Peening (LSP) process for improving the cavitation erosion resistance of pump blades, which reduces the cavitation erosion rate and the depth affected by the cavitation erosion. The process was developed from scratch since no one has applied LSP for this kind of problem. This means HiLASE had to prove the concept before any further step. Once the proof of concept was finished, they applied the regular procedure for the development of the process – processing from “the sample level to the real part”.

LSP treatment of the hydraulic surfaces (exposed to cavitation erosion) is cheaper than producing a pump with “higher-grade” materials. This means that LSP gives a competitive advantage in a situation where cavitation resistance is a factor.

HiLASE provided its specially designed LSP laser processing and characterization equipment, with fatigue life testing performed externally. They have a highly educated and trained LSP team. Altogether, 5 team members have participated in the development. Using the LSP process, our collaborator SIGMA can place itself in an even more competitive position on the market since it will offer more reliable products than its competitors.