Laser School: Part 7 – Lasers – an environmentally friendly industrial processing method
There is a huge need for sustainable and environmentally friendly manufacturing and processing methods in the engineering industry. Lasers offer many benefits from an environmental perspective compared with other processing methods. For example, production using lasers is more environmentally friendly, the work environment for operators is cleaner, and the use of the end product is more sustainable.
Two examples of environmentally friendly laser processing methods
The use of lasers in the engineering industry is often more environmentally friendly compared with other processing methods. Here are two examples:
Laser welding – an energy-efficient method that contributes to a clean work environment
Welding using lasers is a quick and energy-efficient method. Less energy per running metre of welding is required when using a laser compared with conventional welding methods such as TIG-MIG/MAG. Consequently, many industries use laser welding when producing large volumes of products.
Laser welding also contributes to a clean work environment compared with alternative welding methods. Since laser welding gives good results right away, the products require less post-processing. Post-processing is an additional production step that often generates grinding dust and other airborne particles that can adversely affect operators’ work environments. The smoke particles generated from laser welding are collected in the enclosed laser housing and so do not escape into the premises. They are extracted from the housing and caught in the filters of the premises’ ventilation system.
Comparison of TIG welding versus laser welding – welding speed per kW of power
Laser hardening – low resource consumption without affecting the product’s shape or functionality
Laser hardening facilitates selective hardening thanks to the concentrated laser beam, which reinforces very well-defined surfaces of the product. This method requires less energy than hardening the entire product. Another environmental benefit of laser hardening is that you do not have to cool the heated area using various liquids. With selective hardening, the area is cooled by the surrounding material of the product instead. Conventional hardening methods require oil or water for cooling.
A less environmentally friendly alternative to laser hardening is case hardening, which takes place in large furnaces. In addition to the furnaces requiring huge amounts of energy, the heat can alter the structure of the product, resulting in poorer productivity and more rejects. Selective hardening does not affect the shape of the product and so there are fewer rejects, which is good for the environment.
A clean and chemical-free manufacturing process
Many of today’s industrial laser applications have replaced methods that use additives that can be harmful to the environment. Additives are not normally used in laser processing. Where additives are used, they are often in the same material as the product itself. Consequently, laser processing is a relatively clean process without chemicals.
Industrial laser methods also facilitate design solutions that can contribute to the more environmentally friendly use of the end products. In the automotive industry, lighter structures result in lower fuel consumption. In addition, lasers make it possible to optimise the use of materials and to design components in a way that reduces the weight and increases the efficiency of the product.
Permanova works to promote sustainable production through the use of laser applications
At Permanova we attach considerable importance to the environment and sustainability, and we work hard to mitigate any negative environmental impact from our operations. By working with our customers and suppliers, as well as training our staff, we seek to achieve the sustainable production and use of laser applications for industrial metalworking. Our joint efforts and commitment are a prerequisite for our achieving our quality and environmental targets. Permanova is certified in accordance with ISO 9001:2015 for quality and ISO 14001:2015 for the environment.
If you want to find out more about environmentally friendly industrial metalworking or Permanova’s quality and environmental policy, please contact me or visit our website for more information. Also, look out for the final part of laser school, which will look at how laser equipment is implemented in the industry.