Namoi Valley Independent

The evolution of laser welding machines

Photo by Shutterstock.
Photo by Shutterstock.

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Here's an interesting fact: laser technology has actually been around for quite some time now.

Laser welders are currently the most advanced welders found on the market, but this technology has been in development since the mid-20th century.

Let's take a look at the evolution of the laser welding machine and what it'll look like in the future.

What is a laser welding machine?

Laser welding machines are unique and advanced welding machines that provide precise and delicate welding by using beam light to melt and join metal parts together.

The laser beam is a highly concentrated beam of life that focuses on a small area of metal. This degree to which the beam is concentrated allows for the light to heat up the area rapidly it's focused on to its melting point.

At this stage, it will form a melt pool, which will indicate that the beam is at the correct strength. From there, the welder would follow their weld line, resulting in a fine, clean weld.

The evolution of the laser welding machine

Laser welding has been around for almost 60 years currently. However, recently, technology has improved to the point where it's far more effective. Here are the origins of the laser welding machine.

The creation of the laser

Laser welding finds its roots in the creation of the first laser. In 1960, Theodore Maiman designed and created the first laser at the Hughes Research laboratories.

Using a ruby crystal as the main lasing material and a flashlight as the energy source, Maimen produced a red beam of light.

While this might not seem fascinating to us, it was to him and spurred him on as he furthered his research into this.

As his studies developed, he realised some practical applications of laser technology. For instance, at the time, scientists realised that concentrated light could provide heat to such a point that it could melt metal.

This led to the creation of the first laser welding in 1962, when the first official laser welding experiment was done. This experiment was a success, with the American Optical Company successfully using lasers to weld steel and titanium together.

With such a breakthrough, laser technology garnered more attention, leading to further breakthroughs in 1964 by Bell Labs, which designed and created the neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet laser.

This new laser offered way more power and precision than other designs and could be used in various capacities, making it one of the first official laser welding machines.

Introducing laser welding

As the years went by, you can imagine how this laser developed, consistent with human habits to continuously improve; the technology saw huge advancements in both the performance of these laser welders and in their price.

A key breakthrough that needs to be mentioned was the development of the carbon dioxide laser, which offered more power and cost less.

CO2 lasers were launched to the public in 1970 by the Western Electric Company and were used by researchers to weld copper wires.

As the technology became more and more available, it became a normal tool used in several industries, including the automotive and aerospace industries.

Taking things a step further, the 1980s saw the development and release of fibre lasers. Fibre lasers were designed and created by a scientist at Southampton University in the United Kingdom.

The work uses optical fibres as the medium, which offers better beam quality, efficiency, and precision but requires less maintenance. As a bonus, this laser system could integrate better with automated systems, such as robots or CNC machines.

Building on the original design

These developments show how laser welding machines are adapting to meet the needs of modern manufacturing and technology. But things didn't stop at fibre lasers.

Scientists continued to explore better and more effective ways to weld, leading to different laser welding solutions: disk lasers, diode lasers, ultrafast lasers, and hybrid lasers.

Each of these types of lasers comes with its own benefits; for instance, ultrafast lasers work extremely fast and conduct very little heat, disk lasers are stable and bright, diode lasers are affordable, and hybrid lasers combine traditional welding methods with laser welding.

There are also a few other ways that laser welding has been used these days, like:

  • To join different materials like steel and aluminium
  • Welding clear materials like plastic or glass
  • Welding underwater or other challenging environments
  • Us a cutting device for intricate designs

Laser welding machines in the future

Laser welding is a rapidly advancing field with a lot of potential for further development. Key trends shaping its future include a rising demand for more powerful, efficient, higher quality, and affordable lasers tailored to various industrial needs.

There is also a push to create new materials or coatings that enhance the durability of laser welds or lessen issues like heat damage and corrosion.

Moreover, improvements are expected in the automation and digitalisation of laser welding, especially with the integration of AI. This will offer more customisation options and better process control. Final Thoughts

Laser welding has come far in the last 60 years and will most likely excel past our imaginations in the next 60 years.

With every passing year, the technology develops and gets better, offering welders a better and more convenient solution to welding.