Non-contact forming by application of a thermal source has been known for some time. Recently, it has been shown that much greater controllability can be introduced by replacing the thermal source with a laser. This yields a process with strong potential for application in aerospace, including the rapid manufacture of prototypes and the adjustment of misaligned components.
This paper briefly reviews the mechanisms involved in laser forming and then summarises experimental work carried out on aluminium alloys and titanium alloys that led to the development of a prototype system for the forming of 2-D sheet materials. Emphasis is placed on the process advantages, including the high accuracy (arising from the progressive nature of the process) that can be achieved in forming or adjustment of misalignment. Future work in a new collaborative programme to develop 3-D laser forming is summarised.