3D Laser Welding

3D Laser Welding: The Ultimate Guide

3D laser welding is a popular sheet metal fabrication technology. This guide covers vital information on 3D laser welding process. So, if you want to be an expert in 3d laser welding, read this guide.

What Is 3D Laser Welding?

Welding is the process of joining parts using heat to melt the joining material which when cooled, forms a strong bond. Now, 3D laser welding is the welding process that uses laser beam to join metal parts in various ways.

Advantages Of 3D Laser Welding

Aesthetic Finish
Aesthetic Finish

Welds created through 3D laser welding have an aesthetic finish and do not need post-welding finishing or grinding. Once welded, the part is ready for use in the intended application.

Cost Effective
Cost Effective

Setting up a 3D laser welding is expensive, but with the system in place, the benefits are great. The process cuts on labour costs and works in a high speed.

Stronger Joints
Stronger Joints

3D laser welding can penetrate even the deepest parts of a workpiece making sure to melt the whole section. This is possible because of the high heat the machine produces.

Enhanced Safety
Enhanced Safety

3D laser welding being automated and an enclosed system, means that the operator cannot be exposed to any danger. The personnel are not exposed to high temperatures or harmful particles.

Complex Welds
Complex Welds

Since a 3D laser welding can be done from a distance, the work piece can be manipulated as required for joining. This allows for creation of joints with multiplex geometries.

High Heating Rates
High Heating Rates

The heat produced through a laser beam is high and can melt materials very fast forming welds faster than an electric arc. This speed also means stronger bonds are possible.

Can Be Automated
Can Be Automated

3D laser welding can easily be incorporated into any automated production process and this will enhance efficiency and quality. This also helps cut on labour costs and increases product precision.

High Speed
High Speed

An automated 3D laser welding process is much faster compared to other traditional welding processes like electric arc. This method can be best suited for industries that require high throughput.

Compatibility With Materials
Compatibility With Materials

Changing from one material to another requires adjusting the heat level as well and this maybe time consuming. However, 3D laser welding has pre-set parameters for easier and faster changeovers.

Flexibility In 3D Laser Welding

With 3D laser welding, you have unlimited possibilities such as:

  • 3D laser welding can do deep welding, creating strong or slim seams.
  • Soldering is possible with 3D laser welding using a filler material to join parts.
  • 3D laser welding can handle heat conduction welding by creating joints between two thin parts.
  • Hybrid welding is possible with 3D laser welding and is applicable for functions in steel construction. This method is applicable in sport and seam welding using laser pulses.
  • Scanner welding can be done through 3D laser welding.
  • Laser metal deposition is another option for 3D laser welding.
Flexibility In 3D Laser Welding
3D Laser Welding Vs MIG Welding

3D Laser Welding Vs MIG Welding

3D Laser Welding

3D laser welding is the welding process that uses laser beam to join metal parts in various ways. This method offers melting speeds that are high and can give high throughputs in various applications. Welds with complex geometries are possible with 3D laser welding and also ensures safety to operators.

MIG Welding

This is an arc type of welding process that employs a welding gun to deposit solid wire electrode on workpieces. MIG welding process uses an inert shielding gas like argon or nitrogen for the welding process. The welding speed for MIG is a bit slow compared to 3D laser welding process.

TIG Welding Vs 3D Laser Welding

TIG Welding

This is the welding process that involves the use of non-consumable tungsten electrode in the presence of an inert gas. Besides, this method is preferred when joining thin materials because it produces low heat preserving the material’s microstructure. TIG welding is also very versatile and can work with a variety of materials.

3D Laser Welding

3D laser welding is the welding process that uses laser beam to join metal parts in various ways. This method offers high heat leading to high speeds with high throughputs for thicker materials. Welds with complex geometries are possible and is applicable with a wide range of materials.

TIG Welding Vs 3D Laser Welding

How 3D Laser Welding Process Works

How 3D Laser Welding Process Works
How 3D Laser Welding Process Works

Design

Designing for a 3D laser welding process involves the use of a CAD system, which will instruct the machine on what points to weld. An engineer uses the clients’ requirements to come up with the design which can be shared with the client before implementation.

Getting The Materials Ready For Welding

The metal pieces are cleaned using cleaning detergents meant for cleaning metals. Use sandblasts to remove any rusts on the metal surfaces in order to avoid impurities in the weld. Then a cloth soaked in clean water to remove any dust on the surfaces of the metals. Finally, dry up the metal surfaces to avoid shocks before the welding process begins.

Setting Up The Laser Machine

Check the machine to ensure every part is intact and in good condition to be able to produce the best results. Set the parameters required for the specific welding task to be handled through the HMI provided.

Producing Beams From the Laser Source

Once the design has been done, the machines are set ready for the welding process to take place. The beams are passed via collimating lens creating a beam which is aligned in parallel. Parallel beam then hits the dichroic mirror.

Light Reflection

The dichroic mirror is responsible for reflecting and transmitting light through a thin film filter depending on the wavelength.

Beam Focusing

The laser beam is focused onto the working surface through the focussing lens and the beam aids in melting.

Melting The Filler Material

The heat produced by the laser beam melts the filler material on the workpieces and joins them. Molten metal from both metal surfaces flow together to fill the whole created by the heat. This flow covers the whole area to form a joint between the two surfaces. Once the filler material has been melted, cooling results into a fusion between the two surfaces.

Controlling The Whole Process

The whole welding process is controlled through the laser welding head which contains various sensors to ensure the process is accurate.

Temperature Control

The working temperature range of each cycle must be maintained during the whole process. This can be done through the temperature sensors which aid in monitoring the temperature of the welding machine.

Controlling Power

The output power of the laser welding machine is controlled through the 3D laser power sensors which can monitor power throughout the whole process. This is to be able to highlight any errors that may happen during the process.

Cooling Process

3D laser welding head also consists of a cooling system and a purging system. The purging system sends air to the working surface to protect the weld from contamination by impurities in the atmosphere. The cooling system is responsible for cooling the whole system when it gets heated up.

Secondary Finishes

Generally, 3D laser welding produces parts with aesthetic appearance and most times, they don’t need secondary processes. However, for further decorations, further finishes like labelling, printing colour addition can be done to these parts.

3D Laser Welding In Additive Manufacturing Process

3D Laser Welding In Additive Manufacturing Process
3D Laser Welding In Additive Manufacturing Process

3D laser welding can also be used in additive manufacturing processes through a system referred to as laser welding system. Manufacturing companies prefer the use of laser beam as the source of heat when working with structures that require additive process.

Materials in wire or powder form are heated and melted through a laser beam to joint parts. Using raw materials in powder form offers high accuracy with low deposition rates compared to using wires.

3D laser welding as used in additive manufacturing can be divided into two techniques; laser metal fusion and laser metal deposition. Its fusion works layer-by-layer using a powder bed, the beam melts the powder in sections defined by CAD model.

Laser metal deposition involves depositing the powder through a nozzle then the laser produces a weld pool on the material surface. Generally, 3D laser welding has been adopted for high speed and accuracy.

Types Of Laser Cutting

Types Of Laser Cutting
Types Of Laser Cutting

Conduction Welding

Conduction welding involves the use of laser beam to melt the two joining parts at a common joint. The molten metal from both materials flows together and on cooling forms a weld. This technique is suitable for joining two thin-walled metals for instance corner welds of a device housing. Conduction welding, the energy can only be absorbed into the material through heat conduction.  Therefore, maximum weld depth relies on the materials heat conductivity.

Keyhole Welding

This is a welding technique that involves the use of a laser beam as the source of heat. The beam is used to penetrate into a workpiece to form a keyhole at the beginning of the weld. As the heat progresses deeper, the liquid metal flows in to fill the hole and on cooling, it forms a weld bead. This technique can be used for welding thicker materials of approximately 10mm to 29mm.

Laser Welding Vs Laser Cutting

Laser Welding Vs Laser Cutting
Laser Welding Vs Laser Cutting

Laser Welding

Laser welding is the process through which metals or thermoplastics are joined together through the use of a laser beam. The laser beam is focused on to the material surface heating the surface and making it melt. Continued beam focusing allows it to penetrate into the workpiece creating a cavity called keyhole full of melted material. This molten metal flows through to create a bond between the two surfaces when cooled.

Laser Cutting

Whereas laser cutting involves the use of a high-power laser beam directed via optics and a CNC to cut the material as required. The laser beam is basically used to heat, melt and vaporise or blow away the melted part of the material. This leaves a high-quality finish cut that can readily be used for various applications. There are various types of laser cutting techniques including CO2 laser and neodymium yttrium-aluminium-garnet (Nd:YAG) or neodymium (Nd).

Limitations Of 3D Laser Welding

Cracking of Metals From Rapid Cooling
Cracking of Metals From Rapid Cooling

Heating very fast also means that the cooling speed will also be fast creating thermal stress. Since 3D laser produces high heat and melts materials fast, cooling tends to be fast as well which leads to cracks in some materials.

High Initial Setup Cost
High Initial Setup Cost

3D laser welders are a bit expensive and this could be a hinderance to industries that may require its services. The machine is expensive but the operation cost is less since it does not need a lot of human labour.

High Maintenance Cost
High Maintenance Cost

The machine requires frequent and thorough cleaning and maintenance to ensure that the welds are not contaminated to avoid weak welds. In case of a machine failure, an expert must be involved since not everyone can disassemble the machine without damaging it.

Limited Weld Thickness.
Limited Weld Thickness.

3D laser welding can handle parts with not more than 19 gauge in thickness and this is a limitation for different applications. Applications that require thicker welds cannot use of 3D laser welding because the welding will not be accurate.

Applications Of 3D Laser Welding

Automotive Industry
Automotive Industry

3D laser welding allows the welding of modules like engine parts, solenoids, transmission parts, fuel injectors, air conditioning and others. The method is preferred because it can work with thicker materials and has no or little distortion to the workpiece.

Jewellery Industry
Jewellery Industry

3D laser welding is applicable in jewellery industry for various functions especially for items that need repair without distorting them. Re-tipping platinum or gold prongs without removing diamonds from position, making repairs on stainless steel watches and repair costume jewellery.

Photonics Industry
Photonics Industry

In the photonics industry, 3D laser welding can be used to package photonic devices like light-emitting diodes, laser diodes. These items are usually used in the military and durability is possible when they are enclosed within other metals and welded.

Electronic Industry
Electronic Industry

3D laser welding is applied in laser seam and spot welding to produce precise welds in tiny spots with narrow seams. This method is suitable for joining parts that require hermetic seals that can withstand pressure and with accurate joints.

Medical Industry
Medical Industry

Medical devices can be produced using a 3D laser welding in fibre laser with accuracy and precision since they are tiny. Some of these products include prosthetics, orthodontic appliances, hearing aids, surgical tools, catheters, defibrillators, pacemakers and many other products.

People Also Ask:

What Is 3D Weld?

3D weld is a joint that appears in the 3D model and can be made on a 2D structure or from scratch. A 3D weld can be created in various ways; on the face of a 3D structure, from scratch or on a 2D structure.

Is Laser Welding Better Than TIG?

This will depend on the application of the welding method because, TIG welding is suitable for thin workpieces or pipes. Whereas laser welding can handle thicker workpieces and at a high speed with high precision. Both methods are very versatile and can work with a wide variety of materials.

Is Laser Welding Better Than Traditional Welding Techniques?

Laser welding is an automated process with various advantages over the traditional welding techniques including;

High speed, safety of personnel and ability to handle complex welds with complex geometries are some of the benefits offered. However, it also has limitations like cracking of metals due to rapid cooling process.

How Thick Can Laser Welder Weld?

3D laser welding can handle parts with not more than 19 gauge in thickness and this is a limitation for different applications. Applications that require thicker welds cannot use of 3D laser welding because the welding will not be accurate

More Resources:

TIG Welding And Heliarc Welding

Laser Beam Welding

Traditional Vs Laser Welding

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