LASER welding exploits the capability to concentrate high energy in a very small spot, melting the material of the parts and creating a highly stable and resistant joint between them.
The energy brought to the part is focused on the joint and therefore the heat affected zone and the part distortion are minimal.
There are two kinds of welded joints: lap joints or butt joints. In all cases, and in particular for butt joints, the quality and the presentation of the edges to be welded are of the greatest importance: they must be accurately prepared, referred, joint and clamped during the process.
Often it is better to make some tack-welds to be sure that the edges are kept joint during the process. This means that reference and clamping devices play a leading role in the welding process, much more than in the cutting one.
Generally, laser welding is autogenouos. Sometimes, for metallurgical reasons (e.g. for some kinds of aluminum) or when the joining is not perfect and needs to be filled, filler material can be used.
The laser welded joints are generally thin and can be cleaned and/or smoothed more easily than the joints obtained with other welding techniques.
Consequently, laser welding is particularly suitable when the appearance of the articles is essential (e.g. tableware, kitchenware, furnishing) or for hygienic reasons (e.g. gaps or extra material which can become “biological traps” in the food or medical industry).
Among the most widespread applications in 2D laser welding there is the preparation of spot or serpentine welded double-wall panels used in containers for liquids (heating or cooling tanks).
In the automotive sector, the welding of Tailored Blanks (butt welding of multi-thickness and/or multi-material sheets) is very important.
Today laser cutting is one of the most widespread material processing techniques, particularly for flat (2D) or bended and formed (3D) sheet metal.
Compared to mechanical tools (shearing, punching, milling, etc.), the laser has many benefits:
• maximum application flexibility: any material can be virtually processed (all kinds of steel, aluminum and its alloys, titanium and many other metallic materials, but also the greatest part of plastic materials);
• no limit to the shapes which can be obtained: any path, also the most complex one and the sharpest corners, can be cut, since the laser tool is versatile.
• superior accuracy and no part distortion caused by heat and mechanical stress of the tool;
• no tool wear.
In the three-dimensional sector (stamped, bended, or pre-assembled parts), laser cutting has opened new application horizons which would have been otherwise inconceivable:
• cutting profiles can be easily changed;
• there’s no need of complex and costly fixtures;
• hardened materials (hot stamped steel, for instance) or materials which would otherwise cause a rapid wear of the conventional tools can be well processed;
• highly accurate holes and contours can be performed (up to few hundredths of millimeter) even on inaccurate or dimensionally changeable 3D parts (due to spring back effects or inaccuracies caused by bending or assembly defects);
• 3D laser cutting conveys precision to the work piece, in a stable and repeatable way.
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