What Is Laser Welding and How Does It Work?
Laser welding uses intense laser energy to weld metals and thermoplastic materials together. nexAir’s LightWELD is an example of a top-shelf laser welding system.
Developed in the late 1960s, laser welding generates heat at high speeds and penetrates deep into surfaces. It was developed out of the need for a welding technique that offered precision and accuracy. It also answered the need for welding at any angle. This allows for less reworking caused by material shifting. Laser welding is designed to give operators enhanced control and greater flexibility. In fact, most automated welding systems today use laser welding systems.
What Advantages Does Laser Welding Offer Clients Like You?
Laser welding is popular in many industries. The automotive, aerospace and shipbuilding industries use it for mass production. It is also popular for electronics and precision tool fabrication.
Unlike manual or traditional welding techniques, laser welding produces consistent results every time. It can weld a variety of materials and thicknesses with minimal distortion. The resulting welds are more precise, and stronger, and the finish is exceptional. That’s why laser welding is used for high-volume manufacturing work.
Laser Welding Versus Traditional Welding Methods: Will One Cancel Out the Other?
Laser welding developed out of the need for precision and consistency. But traditional welding techniques remain popular for different reasons. Would laser welding cancel out traditional welding processes for good?
Our take: never. Each welding technique offers different benefits for different applications and different clients. The system that will benefit your business the most will ultimately depend on how you want to accomplish your production goals. Here are a few advantages you’ll get from both traditional and laser welding.
The Advantages of Using Traditional Welding Methods
Laser welding may offer many benefits, but traditional welding methods continue to be the go-to for manufacturing and fabrication projects. Here’s why:
- Low Initial Cost of Investment
Traditional welding methods are cheaper to invest in. Manufacturing facilities can roll out workpieces as soon as their welding equipment is in place.
- Ease of Training
Traditional welding methods are easier to learn and master. There are many different traditional welding methods. But the difference between these lies in the materials and gases used, rather than the technique. The skills are easily transferable from one method to the next.
- Ease of Implementation
Once you’ve secured your manual welding equipment, implementation is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is get your welders settled in and you’re gold.
- They are widely used—and still are.
Many facilities continue to use traditional welding methods. They are still hugely popular in construction and mechanical works. They are used for welding steel structures, rails, and industrial piping.
The Benefits of Installing and Using Your nexAir Laser Welding System
Like traditional welding methods, laser welding offers many advantages like:
- Less heat bloom
The heat-affected zone (HAZ) in laser welding is smaller and the total heat input is much lower than in traditional welding methods. Because laser beams are highly concentrated, they can focus on a very small area.
- Lower risk of thermal distortion
The focused laser beam melts only a small surface area where the welds will be. This results in less stress and distortion as the joined metals cool down. This, in turn, reduces production time because you don’t have to worry about metal fracturing, and less effort is required to grind or polish the finished weld seams.
- Faster processing times
Laser welding is very precise and it can do tighter welds. This results in shorter and faster production turnaround times. Because of this, you can take on more orders and projects.
- Materials suitability
Laser welding is an excellent method for welding thin or delicate metal parts and thermoplastics. As a result, laser welding has more applications than traditional welding methods (which are more suited for metals). It also doesn’t have the latter’s negative effects like thermal distortions and weaknesses created by heat-induced material stress.
- Hybrid welding use
Because laser welding originates from traditional welding methods, it can be combined with traditional arc welding to create hybrid laser welding. This process offers all the advantages of both methods (laser and traditional) while mitigating their disadvantages
- A wider range of applications
Laser welding is used in many mass manufacturing and small fabrication projects. It is used in the shipbuilding and aerospace industries. It has many applications in construction, steel structure, and industrial fabrication. Because of its ability to produce fine weld seams, laser welding is also used in the fabrication of medical equipment, tools, and fine jewelry, among others.
Laser welding systems are utilized for precision and consistency. Traditional welding methods are preferred for ease of implementation, low cost, and accessibility.
Bottom line: Laser welding systems aren’t meant to replace traditional welding methods. They are used specifically for work that requires fine, accurate, and strong welds.
Is nexAir LightWeld right for your company?
What Metals and Materials Can Be Laser Welded?
Laser welding is a precision-based method of welding with greater versatility and use. It is used on a wide variety of materials including but not limited to:
- Various types of steels (carbon, mild, alloy, stainless, and die steel, to name a few)
- Aluminum alloy and copper-nickel alloys
- Titanium, platinum, tungsten, and other metals used for jewelry, medical, dental, and surgical equipment
- Metals and thermoplastics used in manufacturing and fabrication applications
What’s the Maximum Production Speed of nexAir Laser Welding?
Laser welding is considered the fastest welding method available today. It is up to four times faster than traditional welding methods. What would take welders using the traditional welding methods eight work hours to finish, can be completed in two hours or less using laser welding.
This speed and precision translate into significantly shorter turnaround times. Another bonus is that your after-weld work (cleaning and polishing off the weld seams) is greatly reduced. All this time and effort saved can mean a big difference in your production timelines and project goals. The time that you saved means savings in overhead costs. It frees up more hours that you can use to take on more projects.
How High Do Temperatures Go in Laser Gleam Welding?
Laser gleam welding can get up to 3000 C (or 5432 F). This is much higher than traditional welding and even other laser welding methods. Its weld heat input may range from 30-600 joules/inch and can penetrate deeper seams on thicker materials.
Another advantage that laser gleam welding has is its small pinpoint heat spot size. This spot size measures between 0.3mm down to 0.05mm in diameter at the laser’s focal point. The size allows welders greater precision, and better accuracy and control. And because it is highly localized heat dispersion is limited and the seams are less prone to deformation.
How Strong Are Laser-Welded Parts?
To test for the strength of laser beam welded seams, two types of tests are used. These are the non-destructive (NDT) and the mechanical (or destructive) tests.
The most common NDT is the electrical resistance test. It is used to determine the overall quality of your laser welds. Other non-destructive tests used are the eddy current, the laser ultrasonic, and the magnetic particle tests.
For strength and mechanical performance, the cross-sectional examination, the hardness measurement, as well as bend and pull test are used. They test the weld seams and joints to the breaking point. They are performed on test pieces, not on final workpieces rolled out of production.
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Advanced Research, researchers analyzed the strength of laser-welded alloy steel. They discovered that the seams were 9% stronger than the base metals. Furthermore, they had a yield strength of 550 MPa.
Is nexAir Laser Welding The Right Option for Your Application?
Laser welding is a versatile method that you can apply to your business. It can be implemented for mass manufacturing and for smaller fabrication projects.
It is often called out for its high initial cost of investment. And there’s a perception that it’s only an automated welding system application. This is simply not the case. If you’ve got a manual or automated welding system in place, laser welding widens your scope of production. It gives you more flexibility. Production-wise, your laser welding system may cost you less because you don’t need filler materials or gas.
If your business requires a quick setup and rollout system, you may want to consider traditional welding methods. But if you are investing for the long term, a laser welding system like nexAir’s LightWELD may be the system for you.
Get the Right Laser Welding Solutions with nexAir
Want to more about laser welding, its benefits, and how you can fit it into your production process? Let us know.
Here at nexAir, we provide laser welding solutions—from products like our LightWELD laser welding systems to service and support for all your laser welding needs. We can help you determine whether a laser welding system is right for your business or not. We can also help you decide what type of welding system would best fit your fabrication or manufacturing needs, laser or traditional.
If you need a top-shelf laser welding solution for your needs, please contact us today. If you’re unsure, tell us more about your needs and we’ll help you find out what the best solution is for your fabrication or manufacturing needs.
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