Over the last two decades, laser beam welding has become a major technique in the metalworking industry. When the technique was first developed it was largely used for exotic applications however, it is now used to produce welds for common items such as motor/transformer lamination, hermetic seals, hybrid circuit packages and battery and pacemaker cans.
Laser beam welding works by targeting the precise focal of the laser onto the specific metallic surface that is to be fused The large concentration of laser light energy is then converted into thermal energy. When the materials are heated to a molten state and then cooled, they become fused together, resulting in a strong weld. Laser welding is the most efficient means for applying thermal energy to small areas. Its accuracy, reliability and repeatability make it ideal for high volume applications. Laser welding can be used in a variety of standard processes. Unlike many techniques that have a unique niche in the manufacturing world, the versatility of laser welding allows it to operate efficiently, as well as economically in a vast variety of applications. The adaptability of a laser makes it ideal to supply energy to hard-to-reach spots, operate under the control of computers and robots, vary the output energy over a wide range and put minimal heat into the part.Perhaps the most valuable and unique attribute laser welding has to offer is its ability to focus and direct thermalenergy to an extremely small, precise point. Laser beam welding can focus energy on spots as small as 0.2 millimeters and still produce a high-quality weld. Because of its precision and high power density, there are minimal heat affected zones, in addition to an absence in distortion in the welds created. With laser welding, deep and narrow welds can be done with ease and efficiency.
Another benefit is that the process does not require the use of a shielding gas. This cuts down on substantial costs comparatively to shielded welding procedures. The results of laser beam welding can be compared to that of electron beam welding however, because electron beam welding must always be performed inside a vacuum chamber, laser welding offers an economical advantage by cutting cost without a deterioration in the output quality. In addition to welding, lasers are also used in metalworking for seam tracking and inspection, surface heat treating and cutting both metallic and non-metallic materials. Laser welding technology serves a number of industries including: aerospace, military, medical, petrochemical refining and research and development. Though the technology is still comparatively new, laser beam welding has already had a positive impact on the manufacturing sector and will allow for continued growth in the future.