While the question posed is intriguing, determining the answer becomes a nuanced task, varying with each application. A simplistic yes or no would be imprudent, considering the multitude of over twelve hundred joining methods globally, each with its distinct window of opportunity. Analyzing correctness requires a meticulous examination of each unique scenario.

Firstly, one must identify the aluminum series being welded. When dealing with aluminum, assessing metallurgical requirements for filler wire is paramount. Typically, 2000, 4000, and 6000 series aluminums necessitate filler wires like 4043, 4047, and 5356. The addition of filler wire to laser processes generally decelerates the process to around two meters per minute. Conversely, 1000, 3000, and 5000 series aluminum usually do not require filler wires, enabling welding speeds of up to ten meters per minute, whereas MIG typically operates at one meter per minute.

Secondly, consideration must be given to the preparation of material edges for joining. MIG accommodates large gaps, while lasers face limitations due to their reliance on photons and the need for a surface to create a keyhole. Typically, a rule of thumb dictates that < 10% of the minimum material thickness is a suitable gap.

Thirdly, the fixturing process is a shared aspect between both methods. Despite similarities, lasers might hold a slight advantage, with less distortion and no requirement for electrical grounding.

Another crucial factor is cleaning. While cleanliness is advisable for both processes, lasers benefit from their high power density, around 100,000 W/cm², which efficiently overcomes the tough aluminum oxide surface. Additionally, lasers consume less surrounding material and exhibit a reduced tendency to pull in surrounding contamination.

It's essential to note that both processes offer welding recipes. One notable difference lies in the use of keyhole welding by lasers and conduction by MIG. Keyhole welding is rapid, making it challenging to observe the welding pool due to its hidden nature, thus simplifying the learning curve. In contrast, MIG relies more on operator skill and is characterized by conduction. Laser keyhole welding notably reduces distortion by an order of magnitude and is not constrained by gravity-related positions.

Considering safety aspects, both processes have their caveats, but lasers require more careful handling and adhere to the ANSI Z136 directive. For detailed information on laser safety, consulting LIA.ORG is recommended.

In conclusion, the best approach is to explore the process firsthand. Facilities across Canada offer opportunities to test and determine the suitability of the process. For further inquiries, you can contact


Chris Pilcher: Regional Sales Manager Canada - IPG Photonics

The information provided is intended for general interest, to educate and inform our audience. The CWB and those providing feedback to the questions do not take any responsibility for any omissions or misstatements that could lead to incorrect applications or possible solutions that industry may be facing.

How-It Works content is submitted by Industry experts to the CWB Association and does not necessarily reflect the views of the CWB Group. When testing for CWB Certification or CWB Education, please refer to CWB Education textbooks or CSA standards as the official source of information.