How Laser Beam Welding Can Help Your Business
Manufacturers are increasingly turning to laser beam welding as a more precise and environmentally friendly alternative to arc welding and electron beam welding.
Laser beam welding operates by using concentrated energy beams (or lasers) to heat the surface of two or more materials at the desired joining point. Since laser beam welders amplify light to create their source of heat energy, they can target hyperspecific areas using precise energy controls. This makes laser beam welding ideal for a large range of welding scenarios, including fine-detail and multipiece welding. Many types of laser welding equipment exist, and each type offers specific advantages and disadvantages.
Laser Beam Welding Processes
Laser beam welders can choose between three different welding techniques. Each technique requires different equipment, practices, and materials, making proper selection essential to an efficient laser beam welding process.
The most popular laser welding technique uses gas to discharge a current that increases emitted light’s optical power. Most gas laser welders use CO2 lasers, which offer the highest-powered continuous-wave capabilities. CO2 lasers operate via efficient processes, making them ideal for consistent use in the welding industry.
Some industries also use helium-neon lasers because of their enhanced optical capacities and long coherence lengths. Although they are more expensive than CO2 lasers, HeNe lasers commonly appear in schools and laboratories because of their enhanced precision.
Unlike gas lasers, solid-state lasers use a solid laser medium to increase the optical power of emitted light. Thousands of solid media can aid with solid-state laser use, with the most common ones including Nd:YAG and Nd:glass. Welders must pump these media (typically by using radiation via laser diodes) to achieve a state of population inversion.
Solid-state lasers require less room overall than gas lasers. They also consume about 70% less energy. Furthermore, solid-state lasers have higher processing speeds, reducing heat warping on products.
However, solid-state lasers are typically more expensive than gas lasers. Since all solid-state media require rare earth metals for effective functioning, solid-state lasers can run up higher up-front costs, but their energy efficiency may make them cheaper in the long run.
The newest laser welding technique, fiber lasers use fiber optic cables dipped in rare earths (typically erbium). Similar to solid-state lasers, fiber lasers pump using laser diodes, though they often require smaller and less expensive ones.
Fiber lasers have several benefits over both gas and solid-state lasers. Fiber lasers convert 60–80% of received energy, meaning that they don’t overheat and that they evenly distribute energy heat sources. Fiber lasers are also more steady and require less maintenance than other welding lasers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Beam Welding
Laser welding offers a safer alternative to techniques like arc welding, but it comes with a few drawbacks
that may limit its use for some applications. Below, we’ve outlined some of the main advantages and
disadvantages of laser beam welding.
- Precision: Laser beam welding works with spot sizes as low as 0.2 mm, making it ideal for small parts and detailed welding.
- Cleanliness: Laser beam welding doesn’t produce splatter, creating a safer and more efficient welding process than other welding techniques.
- Robotic: The laser beam welding apparatus can connect with robotics, allowing easy automation of the welding process at rapid and accurate levels.
- Open air: Unlike electron beam welding, workers can perform laser beam welding in open-air environments instead of vacuum-sealed compartments.
- Heating: Laser welding has a small heat zone, making it perfect for detailing and welding small or fragile materials as well as equipment susceptible to heat distortion.
- Quality: Laser beams typically have a cleaner and more consistent weld finish.
- Hypercontrollable: Operators possess a high degree of control over laser beam intensity and direction, especially with fiber lasers, making them perfect for automated or semi-automated welding practices.
- Cost: Laser beam welding is more expensive than other welding techniques.
- Penetration: Laser beam welding cannot penetrate materials as deeply as electron beam welding, and beam size can only go as high as 19 mm depending upon the materials.
- Reflectivity: Certain materials (such as aluminum and copper) can reduce the effectiveness of laser beam welding because of their reflectivity.
Craft Metal With Our Lasers
Laser beam welding has already drastically reshaped the welding industry. Lasers create precise, controllable welds at a fraction of the environmental cost, and they operate with minimal heat transfer and no splatter.
The conjoined functions of robotics and laser beam welding will help with large-volume welds, and researchers are developing more cost-effective laser welding techniques for small manufacturing shops as well. While laser beam welding will not supplant electron beam welding and arc welding, it’s already proving itself a viable alternative for a number of different applications.
To learn more about how Metal Craft’s laser beam welding solutions can help your welding quality and efficiency, contact us and request a quote today!