In the hybrid laser-arc welding process, a laser beam and an electric arc are coupled in order to combine the advantages of both processes: high welding speed, low thermal load and high depth penetration thanks to the laser; less demanding on joint preparation/fit-up, typical of arc welding. Thus the hybrid laser-MIG/MAG (Metal Inert or Active Gas) arc welding has very interesting properties: the improvement of productivity results in higher welding speeds, thicker welded materials, joint fit-up allowance, better stability of molten pool and improvement of joint metallurgical quality. The understanding of the main relevant involved physical processes are therefore necessary if one wants for example elaborate adequate simulations of this process. Also, for an efficient use of this process, it is necessary to precisely understand the complex physical phenomena that govern this welding technique. This paper investigates the analysis of the effect of the main operating parameters for the laser alone, MAG alone and hybrid Laser/MAG welding processes. The use of a high speed video camera allows us to precisely characterize the melt pool 3D geometry such as the measurements of its depression and its length and the phenomena occurring inside the melt pool through keyhole-melt pool-droplet interaction. These experimental results will form a database that is used for the validation of a three-dimensional thermal model of the hybrid welding process for a rather wide range of operating parameters where the 3-D geometry of the melt pool is taken into account. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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