How is Laser Welding Different from Traditional Welding?

Laser welding is a process used to join metals together by using a highly concentrated beam of light, or laser beam, to form a weld. As the high-energy laser pulses, it heats up a small area of the receiving material, melting it to form a specific molten pool. The liquified area, or weld bead, cools and fuses the joint area of two parts.

The laser welding process differs from other welding methods in several ways, including the process in which the joints are heated, weld material consumption, weld precision, weld speed, and machine cost.

Let’s review some aspects of the laser welding process that make it unique.

  • Laser welding is a very fast technique, completing welds twice as fast as MIG welding and up to ten times faster than TIG welding.
  • Laser welding produces strong, reliable welds, with greater tensile and bending strength and less risk of contamination than MIG, TIG, or Arc welding.
  • Laser welding is a non-contact process meaning there is no physical contact between the workpiece and the welding tool.
  • Laser welding can be autogenous, requiring no filler material, or additive, including a metallic wire or powder.
  • Laser welding introduces just enough heat needed to form the weld, creating a more focused heat-affected zone than those resulting from other welding methods.
  • Lasers produce welds with a high aspect ratio, joining materials of large depths and narrow widths that are often unsuitable for other welding techniques.
  • Laser welding is highly accurate and precise, making it an ideal method for welding a wide range of materials including structural steel, alloy steel, carbon steel, copper titanium, nickel, aluminum, and refractory metals.
  • Laser welding is not limited by the thickness of the weld object and is suitable for fusing both delicate or thin-walled materials and thicker steel plates, from 0.005” – 0.25”.

Laser welding machines are more expensive than traditional equipment purchases, but the advantages often pay for themselves.

Industrial laser welding equipment comes with a price tag of $50,000 – $100,000. The imported fiber laser required to produce electro-optical conversion is a necessary requirement, albeit an expensive one. Producing continuously adjustable, high-beam power also requires a quality cooling system. Fume extractors are necessary to maintain a clean and fume-free workspace. The laser welding apparatus will also need regular maintenance, which can be costly.

Laser welding is most commonly used to join machined components requiring high-volume production. The results include consistent weld locations, precise part fit, and above-average surface finish. Though tooling and laser costs may be higher, they are easily justified by the quality, repeatability, and cycle times when compared with traditional welding methods.

Industry Applications of Laser Welding

The laser welding method is often used in the automotive industry when attaching body panels or sealing fuel tanks or exhaust couplings. The agriculture equipment industry requires welded components for reapers, planters, weeders, and tractors. The energy sector is served by the laser welding of turbine components, boilers, and pipelines. Revolving doors, liquid tanks, refineries, pacemakers, and ships have all been touched by laser welding technology.

O’Neal Manufacturing Services offers laser welding services for original equipment manufacturers.

Our skilled operators and state-of-the-art laser welding machinery will produce high-quality welds with the accuracy and repeatability you can count on. O’Neal Manufacturing Services is your solution for laser welding and more. We offer specialized fabrication services with additional machining capabilities for any type of high-volume project. Let’s Build Things!®