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State-of-the-art technology makes industrial lasers an increasingly popular alternative for welding and surfacing applications in many fields of manufacturing, from automotive through microelectronics to shipbuilding.
The benefits of laser welding include low heat input, a small heat-affected zone (HAZ), low distortion rate, high welding speeds and the flexibility of single-sided access.
There are two laser welding modes:
Conduction mode welding, where the laser beam interacts (by thermal conduction) only with the surface of the parts being welded. This mode is typical of low-power lasers (< 500 W), where the energy density is not sufficient to create a keyhole.
Keyhole welding, where the high-density laser beam rapidly heats up the fusion zone to a point where the molten metal starts to vaporise at the centre of the weld beam spot and opens up a keyhole in the molten metal, allowing laser beam energy to transfer deep into the material. This mode is typical of high-power lasers.
There are various types of laser – CO2, fibre, diode and Nd:YAG, each with different properties and benefits. High-power CO2 lasers (1 to 10 kW) are used in keyhole mode to weld car bodies, transmission components, heat exchangers, tailored blanks and many other automotive components and parts. In recent years, fibre lasers have been gaining in popularity. They benefit from high electric efficiency and beam delivery via optical fibre. Since 2010, almost all new installed laser welding machines are equipped with fibre lasers. Diode lasers have very high electric efficiency but low beam quality compared with fibre and CO2 lasers. They remain niche products. Low-power Nd:YAG, fibre, diode and CO2 lasers (<1 kW) are typically used in conduction mode to weld small components such as medical instruments, electronic packages, sensors, razor blades and so on.
Welding gases play an important role in laser welding. Apart from protecting the molten metal and heat-affected areas of the workpiece against the ambient atmosphere, the right gas can increase the welding speed and/or improve the mechanical properties of the weld. Selecting the right process gas is crucial in CO2 laser welding. It is, however, less critical in fibre and diode laser welding.
We can help you choose the gases and supply solution that best fit your laser welding needs. Our LASGON® series of process gases was custom-developed for stable, safe welding operations and optimum results. Our umbrella LASERLINE® programme unites our in-depth laser process know-how with our long-standing experience in the delivery of fully integrated laser solutions. Guaranteed to meet your reproducibility and reliability needs, our LASERLINE offering extends from process consulting through gas storage and supply technologies to all-round technical support. The result is a state-of-the-art, all-inclusive supply and service package tailored to your specific needs and guaranteed to deliver consistent results while protecting your investment in sophisticated laser equipment.