A DARPA Program a decade ago concentrated on flexible manufacturing – which included the development of manufacturing processes which were Direct CAD-to-Part, and “smart” robot/process controllers which had embedded process models and could “on-the-fly” make process adjustment and produce perfect or near perfect parts with no human intervention. A team, headed by two of the authors, began the development of the LITS-Form (Laser Induced Thermal Strain – Forming) process. The LITS-Form process has evolved, partly supported by both Navy and Department of Energy Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR)funding; and, the addition of induction heating has made the process much faster and more efficient for thicker metal. The process is similar to thermal forming using Line Heating – which many shipyards use to make complex 3D shapes. However, there are several significant advances in the LITS-Form technology. The Physics of the LITS-Form system is fundamentally different from manual Line Heating allowing it to operate up to 100 times as fast. LITS-Form can produce parts with greater accuracy than Line Heating, and is faster than conventional metal forming operations such as the linear brake press.

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