What changes are foreseen for the laser welding of the future in terms of mass appeal (increased usage)?

In order to determine where Lasers are going in the future, we need to look at the past.  Over twenty years ago a 1 kW YAG Laser cost approximately $300k USD.  With the development of the IPG Photonics Fiber Laser, the cost for a similar output is now approximately $23k USD.  In addition, the footprint of the older Laser was the size of a car and had an electrical efficiency of less than 3%.  Moreover, the maintenance cycle was involved and frequent.  Typically, every 700 hours for the planned maintenance.  The unscheduled maintenance was even more costly.  The newer technology has no moving parts, no free space optics and is incredibly reliable.  This reliability has led to the adoption of multiple new markets.  Some examples are Laser cutting, Laser cleaning, Laser marking, Laser welding, Lasers for military, additive manufacturing, Lasers for heat treating,… and so on.

In particular, IPG Photonics recently introduced the LightWELD manual Laser welder.  The LightWELD offers an easier learning curve when compared with arc processes, GTAW, GMAW, PTAW.  In addition, the benefit of lower distortion and closer to net shape welding is also realized.  Laser has the advantage of running in keyhole mode and not conduction welding.  The results are remarkable.  Imagine, an air-cooled Laser plugging into 240 V single-phase electricity.  This can only happen as a result of greater than 45% electrical efficiency.  The torch (optical head) also has a built-in programmable wobble function which widens the weld while maintaining low heat input.

Looking forward, lower prices can only drive more markets and higher powers.  Lasers are now being adopted into the industry and homes at an increasing rate.  Imagine, handheld Lasers are also used to clean rust from components in the field.

 

Chris Pilcher Regional Sales Manager – Canada IPG Photonics Corporation