We often get customers asking us about moving an existing welding procoess to laser welding so they can take advantage of the laser’s great benefits. I'd like to take a minute to review a few of the potential pitfalls of moving to laser welding, so you might avoid them and make YOUR transition as smooth as possible.
There is no doubt that it’s preferable to design part material, fit-up, and weld geometry for a specific welding technology. However - news alert! – we do not live in a perfect world. Technology is changing at lightning speed, and sometimes there’s a need to make a switch when one or more of these factors has already been determined.
- Verify that the materials are laser weldable. Although laser welding covers a board range of materials, it is certainly not as broad asthose which can be resistance or arc welded – or, even soldered for small joints. Consult our laser weldability tool for some guidelines regarding material weldability.
- Assuming the materials can be laser welded, the key issue faced by manufacturers is material fit-up and tooling. Resistance welding uses electrodes for self-tooling, while arc welding and soldering both use filler material that can bridge gaps between parts. Laser welding, however, is a non-contact process, which means that you must determine how well your parts fit up, how closely the welding edges can be brought together, and what tooling you need to make this happen. With larger welding applications (2kW and above), filler material can be considered. You can also use a hybrid welding technique which combines the speed and penetration of a laser with the fit-up accommodation of an arc welder. However, you have to keep in mind that filler material is not used in welding small parts, because delivering a small diameter wire into a very small weld pool is simply non production-viable. You'll find more about how lasers weld and part fit up in our Fundamentals of Laser Welding.
The bottom line is that you have to do your due diligence before making any decisions.