Laser Welding for Sheetmetal Fabricators

Although laser welding is a well-established manufacturing solution, many sheetmetal fabricators have been hesitant to implement the process at their shop.

For many years they have missed out on the advantages laser welding has to offer and focused on improving other bottlenecks, for example, in laser cutting or bending. With these solutions in place and laser welding emerging as a more viable solution, many fabricators are beginning to recognize the laser welding process as the next logical step in enhancing their production capabilities.

Manufacturers benefit from any process that reduces cost per part—and laser welding has many advantages in this regard. Due to the low heat input of this process, distortion and discoloration can be avoided to completely eliminate the need for refinishing. As these postprocesses are extremely time consuming and expensive, the costs per part are significantly reduced. Furthermore, laser welding speeds are considerably higher than conventional processes, which often greatly reduces processing times. This leads to free capacity on the machine, allowing the manufacturer to serve more customers.

Laser welding is not only about reducing costs, but also increasing functionality. A smooth surface with an extremely narrow welding geometry is beneficial for kitchen, furniture and other industries where visible weld seams are common. Due to the low heat input, manufacturers can avoid discoloration and achieve highly aesthetic parts directly from the machine. One can also achieve very strong seams for parts that require strength. The characteristic seam geometry of laser welding leads to full penetration of the parts while reducing the influence on the grain structure. Tensile strength tests show conventionally welded seams break in the welding seam, while laser welded parts break in the base material.

After the welding program is implemented and the parameters are set, a laser welding robot achieves consistent quality every time. It is also a very stable process and can generate watertight seams to eliminate the need for leak tests. Laser welding also offers unique seam geometries enabling the part designer to reduce weight, material and costs, such as replacing spot welds with overlap joints that are not only stronger, but also invisible from the other side.

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