Laser welding, setting a new trend

IN AUSTRALIA, traditional methods of welding, includ ing gas metal arc welding (GMA) and tungsten inert gas (TIG), remain the most common welding processes used in manu facturing.

However, one process that has attracted much atten tion in recent times is laser weld ing, a technique invented in the latter half of the 20th century which can be used to join multi ple pieces of metal through the use of a laser beam.

According to Laserweld direc tor, Sean Fenton, uptake is grow ing quickly in many sectors, including manufacturing.

“The technology provides mini mal distortion to the parent material with very little heat- affected zones. This is important to manufacturers because prod ucts, repairs and modifications can be carried-out and the finished results are virtually invisible,” Fenton told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Many welds done by laser do not have to have further process es carried-out on the welded area, saving time and money.

“Many materials that cannot be welded by traditional meth ods can be welded with laser, such as titanium, beryllium copper and platinum.”

The laser beam provides a con centrated heat source, allowing for narrow, deep welds and high welding rates. The process is fre quently used in high-volume applications, such as in the automotive industry.

“The benefits of laser welding in the right application can lead to weld areas as small as 0.05mm to many millimetres,” Fenton said.

Though laser welding provides superior results on certain mate rials, the new technology is still quite expensive and is generally only viable for high-volume applications.

However, according to BOC market manager for advanced gas applications, Deian Jones, the price of laser technology will soon fall, because it can be implemented in automated processes and used on more materials, meaning more compa nies are likely to invest.

“The laser power source tends to be expensive as is the associ ated jigging and/or automation to achieve the accurate fit-out required for laser welding — the beam will pass straight through gaps,” Jones told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

However, the technology’s ben efit is expected to diminish any economic arguments about long- and short-term costs.

“Laser welding provides improved product quality, faster process speeds, ability to weld difficult product weld geome tries and dissimilar materials,” says Jones.

Applications most suited to laser welding include high value / low volume components; and high high volume components, automotive and aerospace parts, batteries and other small electronic devices.

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