Advances in Laser Welding

July 2, 2020 9:14 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had fully automated laser welding machines? Imagine not having to tell the machine how and where to weld. The laser welder might know how to differentiate between materials and the variations they require, or could inspect the joints and figure out how best to weld the pieces together. We’re not quite there yet, but advances in laser welding make it seem like that future may not be too far off.

Laser welding automation in Umatilla County, OR has grown over the past decade, taking advantage of recent advances in technology. One of the most promising developments is in beam shaping.

What is beam shaping?

Laser beam shaping is the process of changing a laser beam’s shape from how it originally radiates, typically using lenses to split the beam. Welders have been using laser beams to create clean welds for years, thanks to their low-heat weld and fast keyhole welding capability. Now, some welders have found that beam shaping enhances their welding process.

Beam shaping allows the laser to be used for multiple purposes—for example, larger and low-powered lasers are good for aesthetic welds, while lasers with a ring or “donut” around the main beam shape add stability to keyhole welds. These welds tend to be stronger and see less spatter than other laser beam welding.

Changing the shape is also good for other applications, such as pre-heating a portion of the metal before the more intense portion of the laser welds the joints. Oscillating beams distribute heat more effectively than other methods, allowing welders to complete the job faster.

Advances in beam shaping, laser welding and automation

Today, manufacturers are creating lasers that can be “tuned” to achieve different effects. This gets us one step closer to true laser welding automation in Umatilla County, OR—the next will be to program a computer or create artificial intelligence that can follow welding instructions from start to finish. Some experts predict that we may see artificial intelligence utilized to automate the process even further—whereas now laser welding requires someone to pilot the machinery and make the right beam selection, they’re hopeful that even that can be fully automated in the coming years. The next step in this process involves finding a way for the machine to track and quality check each project. Tracking would utilize cameras to inspect the surface and “steer” the machinery, as well as ensure that the finished product is up to standard.

It appears that we’re close to a fully automated solution—as the popularity of storing data in the cloud increases, many applications log and share project information with the manufacturers. In time, this could lead to enough data that artificial intelligence can learn about laser welding and best practices. When that occurs, we can expect to see fully automated laser welding being achieved not long after.

If you’re interested in learning what laser welding automation can do for your project in Umatilla County, OR, reach out to NW Metal Fabricators Inc. today.

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