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08 Nov, 2023, Company News

Laser Welding Applications

Laser Welding Applications

Laser welding is one of the earliest applications in industrial laser material processing. In most early applications, laser welding produced higher quality welds, resulting in improved productivity. With the development of laser types, laser sources now have higher power, different wavelengths, and a wider range of pulse capabilities. In addition, advancements in beam delivery, machine control hardware and software, and process sensors have all contributed to better advancements in laser welding processes.

Laser welding offers unique advantages, including low heat input, narrow fusion and heat-affected zones, and excellent mechanical properties for welding materials that were previously difficult to weld with processes that generate higher heat input to the parts. These properties result in stronger welds produced by laser welding and a more attractive appearance. Additionally, laser welding requires much less setup time and, with the use of laser tracking sensors, automation can be achieved, reducing product costs. All these new technologies have further expanded the application range of laser welding. Fiber laser welding has been successfully applied in various industries, using different metals, component shapes, sizes, and volumes.

  1. Battery Welding The increasing application of lithium batteries in electric vehicles and many electronic devices means that engineers are using fiber laser welding in their product designs. Components carrying current, made from copper or aluminum alloys, are connected to terminals through fiber laser welding to connect a series of batteries in the battery. Laser welding of aluminum alloys (typically from the 3000 series) and pure copper is performed to create electrical contacts with the positive and negative terminals of the battery. All materials and material combinations used in batteries are candidate materials for the new fiber laser welding process. Overlapping, butt, and fillet joints enable various connections within the battery. Laser welding of tab materials to the negative and positive terminals of the battery results in packaged electrical contacts. The final battery pack assembly welding step, which seals the seams of the aluminum can, creates a barrier for the internal electrolyte. Since batteries are expected to work reliably for 10 years or more, laser welding ensures consistently high quality. With the use of the appropriate fiber laser welding equipment and process, laser welding can consistently produce high-quality welds in the 3000 series aluminum alloys.
  2. Precision Welding Seals used in ships, chemical refineries, and the pharmaceutical industry were originally TIG welded. These components are precision-machined and ground from nickel-based alloy materials that are heat and chemically resistant due to their use in sensitive environments. The batch sizes are usually small with numerous setup changes. Currently, assembly of these components has been improved using fiber laser welding. The reasons for switching to fiber laser welding from the earlier robotic arc welding process include: consistent quality of laser welding, ease of switching from one component configuration to another, reducing setup time and increasing production yield, and cost reduction through the automation of the laser welding process with the assembly of laser tracking sensors.
  3. Hermetic Welding Hermetically sealed electronic products in medical devices (such as pacemakers and other electronic products) have made fiber laser welding the preferred process for applications that require the highest reliability. The latest advancements in hermetic welding processes have addressed issues related to laser welding and weld end crater, which is a critical location for achieving a hermetic seal. Previous laser welding techniques resulted in a depression at the weld end even when reducing laser power upon closing the laser beam. Advanced laser beam control eliminates depressions in thin and deep welds. The result is consistent weld quality with no porosity at the weld end and improved appearance and reliability of the seal.
  4. Aerospace Welding Laser welding of nickel and titanium-based aerospace alloys requires control over weld geometry and weld microstructure, including minimizing porosity and controlling grain size. In many aerospace applications, fatigue performance of the weld is a critical design criterion. Therefore, design engineers almost always specify a convex or slightly protruding welding surface to enhance the weld strength. For this purpose, a 1.2mm diameter filler wire is used for automated processes. Adding filler wire to the butt joint results in consistent weld crowns on the top and bottom weld beads. The selection of filler wire alloy also contributes to the mechanical properties of the weld by ensuring good microstructure of the weld.
  5. Dissimilar Metal Welding The ability to manufacture products using different metals and alloys greatly enhances design and production flexibility. Optimizing the performance of the finished product, such as corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and heat resistance, while controlling costs, is a common motivation for dissimilar metal welding. Connecting stainless steel to galvanized steel is an example. Due to its excellent corrosion resistance, 304 stainless steel and galvanized carbon steel have been widely used in various applications, such as kitchen utensils and aerospace components. This process presents some specific challenges, particularly because the zinc coating can cause significant weld porosity issues. During the welding process, the energy of the molten steel and stainless steel vaporizes the zinc at approximately 900 degrees Celsius, which is significantly lower than the melting point of stainless steel. The low boiling point of zinc leads to the formation of vapor during spot welding. Zinc vapor can get trapped in the solidifying weld, resulting in excessive weld porosity. In some cases, zinc vapor escapes as the metal solidifies, resulting in surface porosity or roughness on the weld. With proper joint design and selection of laser process parameters, clean and sound welds can be easily achieved. Overlapping welds of 0.6mm thick 304 stainless steel and 0.5mm thick galvanized steel show no cracks or porosity on both the top and bottom surfaces.


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