Laser School: Part 3 – The benefits of different laser methods
There are many industrial processes that can be carried out using lasers. These include 3D printing, welding, hardening, soldering, and cutting. In all of these cases, lasers ensure a smooth and efficient process with quick and accurate results that require minimal post-processing. In this article and film, we’ll explain more about the benefits of the most common laser methods in the manufacturing industry.
Laser welding – enables single-sided access with fewer deformations
Joining pieces of metal by welding is an old method used in the production of everything from detailed medical components to large steel structures such as bridges and ships. Heating up the metal using a laser is an increasingly common method of welding. The benefit of laser welding is that it involves very little heat compared with other welding methods such as MIG welding or TIG welding. Since less energy is expended, there are fewer deformations to the material. Laser welding also allows single-sided access, which is not possible with spot welding, for example. In addition, laser welding is five to ten times quicker than TIG welding, for instance.
Laser hardening – reinforces particularly exposed parts of the material
Hardening involves the use of temperature changes to make metal stronger and more durable. Lasers are one of many methods that can be used to add heat to a process. The advantage of laser hardening is that very specific areas of the material can be hardened thanks to the laser’s strong and precise beam. Hardening only parts of the product makes it more durable, as hardening the whole product would pose a risk of cracking. Using a pyrometer, the temperature of the surface to be hardened is measured in order to automatically adjust the power of the laser for a precise and high-quality result. This is a quick and simple process compared with induction hardening, for example, which requires more equipment and larger facilities.
Laser soldering – provides a neat joint that does not require post-processing
Soldering involves joining two parts together. Unlike laser welding, the material itself is not melted – instead an additive, usually a wire, is melted to create the joint. For soldering to work, the additive must not be the same as the base material, as the materials need to have different melting points. An advantage of laser soldering is a neat finished joint that can be painted directly without any post-processing. Soldering is a popular method, especially in the automotive industry, where it is often used to join roofs and tailgates, for example.
Laser cutting – a flexible method resulting in a precise neat cut
Laser cutting is the most common laser method in the manufacturing industry It is a quick and flexible cutting method that works well for most materials. The material that is melted by the laser beam and the steam generated are pushed out from the cutting groove. This is done by blowing gases, such as oxygen or air, towards the cutting groove via a nozzle located around the laser beam. This results in a quick and precise cut that is free from slag, deformations, and rough edges.
Additive manufacturing using lasers – efficient and flexible methods
The manufacture of products or components using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has huge potential in the manufacturing industry. During manufacture, the base material is melted and a new material is added in the form of a powder or wire. Powder is the older method, while wire has become increasingly popular in recent years. Using a laser as a heat source is an efficient method that provides high-quality results with minimal post-processing requirements.
An advantage of additive manufacturing is that it requires less material compared with milling a product out of a moulded block. Furthermore, materials such as titanium are difficult to mill. It is also more cost-effective if all you need is individual products, such as when manufacturing prototypes. In addition, it offers considerable flexibility in construction. One disadvantage of additive manufacturing is that it is a relatively complex method with a lot of parameters to keep track of.
If you want to find out more about our laser methods, visit our website for more information about Permanova and our solutions. Have you missed any of our laser school? Catch up here and keep an eye out for “Laser School: Part 4”, which compares laser processes with the most common alternatives.