LASER WELDING – NO LONGER JUST FOR BIG AUTOMOTIVE APPLICATIONS

(featured in Canadian Metalworking – 5/16; written by Brett Thompson)

Laser welding was once the preserve of large automotive concerns, but the technology has developed sufficiently that with the right investment, like other automated processes, it can work for a busy job shop with the right customer mix.

Following are seven reasons laser welding may be suitable for job shops.

  1. Rework Reduction or Elimination – with the use of conventional welding – whether it be gas metal arc welding (GMAW/MIG), tungsten arc welding (GTAW/TIG), or some other process – a number of steps still are required after that weld is completed, such as cleaning up the part for finishing. With laser welding, once you are done with your weld, it is often possible to send the part straight to painting or shipping; rework is eliminated, or at least drastically reduced.
  2. Reduction of Part Warping – laser welding does not transfer large amounts of heat into the materials. One industry that has really embraced laser welding is office furniture manufacturers that work with carbon steel tubes. Conventional welding on carbon steel tubes can cause twisting and possibly some bowing in the material, warping the part. Because laser welding transfers much less heat to the material, you can achieve a much straighter workpiece and therefore less likelihood of rework.
  3. Numerous Joining Options – the technology offers flexibility when it comes to part designs. For instance, consider the fairly basic weld setup shown in Figure 1. Assume you want to weld this using GMAW. It would be necessary to access this thick piece of material from both sides. With laser welding you are able to weld from just one side of the material from both sides. With laser welding, however, you can get more creative with the design because there are more ways that you could weld it. With laser welding you are able to weld from just one side of the material to achieve a full-penetration weld, so it actually ends up being stronger than the GMAW approach. The technology also allows you to join dissimilar material thicknesses, or weld the surface of one piece to the end of another. Combined with the precision of modern press brakes, laser welded butt seams and bent edges are possible. With the ability to also do interior edges, overlaps, and rings quite quickly, laser welding offers even greater options for industries like office furniture manufacturers.
  4. To see the remaining reasons, click here for complete article.