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Inventors of the Year 2017
Lasers and everything about them have intrigued Bernd Burbaum since he was a kid. He developed a new laser welding process that makes it possible to repair expensive gas turbine blades so they are as good as new. Burbaum, who works in Berlin at Power and Gas, sees a positive future ahead for laser welding: “New welding processes offer tremendous potential for innovation.”
The blades in the hot gas path of a gas turbine are not cheap: Each one costs around as much as a midsized car. As a result, innovative repair processes are very important. “We want to extend the life of each blade so it can play a role in producing energy for as long as possible,” the inventor states.
Burbaum developed a new approach to laser welding that offers many advantages over standard welding techniques: The blades don’t have to be preheated to the standard 1000 degrees Celsius; instead, welding takes place at room temperature. The newly developed process also makes it possible to boost the build-up rate even more, which, in turn, reduces the time needed for processing and, as a result, lowers costs for repairing each individual blade.
During the time a blade does its job within the 1400-degree interior of a gas turbine, the wedge-side surfaces and the tips oxidize. This robs a turbine of its ability to function at full capacity. Using a special laser-welding technique, a new type of material can be applied in such a way that the repaired sections are considered like new – that is, there is no loss of quality.
At Siemens, I feel very comfortable as a developer. I am given many liberties.