Laser Welding Equipment
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Over the last few decades, multiple choices have emerged for laser welding energy. The two most common are YAG and CO2 lasers; they are the workhorses of the laser welding industry. YAG is a solid-state laser where lasing action is confined to a YAG rod that is doped with Nd atoms. YAG lasers are used in both pulsed and CW modes. On the other hand, the CO2 laser is a gas laser and is primarily used in the CW mode. More recent advances include fiber lasers that are solid-state but produce the laser light in the confines of an optical fiber. Fiber lasers produce beams of very high beam quality and thus can be focused down to a very small spot size. Fiber lasers are pumped with laser diodes as a source of input energy. Another recent development is the direct diode laser where light from a bank of laser diodes is directly used for welding, soldering, or brazing. Disk lasers are also making inroads with their high beam quality and CW operation.
Laser Energy Delivery
Their are two primary choices for laser energy delivery: fiber or direct optics. YAG wavelengths can be piped down a fiber for convenient delivery over considerable distances and is one the reasons for the popularity of YAG lasers. The laser energy from a single source can be divided and either time shared or energy shared for use at multiple welding stations. Laser light coming out of the CO2 laser cannot be transmitted through a fiber and hence has to be transmitted through air and diverted with help of mirrors and hence is referred to as direct optics. Laser light from a CO2 can travel considerable distance before being used for welding; the user can place the power supply in one room and have the laser system in a different location.
Given the intricacies involved with the beam delivery process, part positioning, and safety issues, lasers are typically purchased as a system that includes a motion system and an enclosure. Motion systems can be intricate as on a mass-production line or could be designed for manual one-off part loading and unloading. In most cases the part is moving while the beam delivery optics is stationary. There are options to move the beam over an area with a welding scanner and hold the part stationary. For applications where cleanliness is important or where the atmosphere has to be accurately controlled as for welding of Titanium in medical devices, the welding system includes a glove box that has the motion system inside the box. The system can include multiple entry ports with options for baking the parts before welding.
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