Laser technology in manufacturing is ubiquitous and affects our lives in many invisible ways. For example, lasers are used to cut the glass of car airbags, smart phones and tablet computer screens, and medically delicate and small brackets. Lasers can be used to weld batteries, sensor housings on automobiles, and metal pipe fittings. The laser can also process the micro-holes of the radiator in the notebook computer and mark the parts.
The first technology developed in the manufacturing industry was laser cutting of sheet metal. Laser cutting is more precise than any other process, so it brings many advantages to subsequent assembly. For example, the shipbuilding industry used plasma cutting machines to cut parts, and then beat and reshape them to meet assembly accuracy requirements. Therefore, in the past, shipyards often heard the sound of hammerheads thousands of times. However, after installing the laser cutting machine, the biggest feeling is that the production has become "quiet". 5 main trends of laser applications in the manufacturing industry today and in the future.
1. Large capacity laser welding.
Maximizing welding time and minimizing non-welding time have always been the highest goals of the manufacturing process. Laser welding is a non-contact welding process. The laser head can move very fast, making the welding almost instantaneous. A good example is welding car seat components. A robot carries a laser head to move and weld over the components without stopping the welding. Work that used to take a few minutes now only takes a few seconds.
2. Laser marking.
Laser engraving is the fastest growing laser technology in the market in recent years. As the demand for parts tracking and traceability increases, its market size will continue to expand. Laser engraving provides a permanent and direct marking method for a variety of materials. Can directly engrave any graphic features, including text, graphics and bar codes.
3. Laser additive manufacturing.
After nearly 30 years of development, laser additive manufacturing has finally been successfully used in parts repair and parts manufacturing. For parts repair, this technology is ideal for reworking expensive components or worn tools, such as molds and aero engine turbine blades. The metal layer is deposited on the repair area, and then slightly processed to meet the specifications. For parts manufacturing, implants and single-piece complex aero-engine parts in the medical industry are all using lasers for rapid custom development and manufacturing. Reducing the manufacturing cycle time of a single piece will be the key to maintaining the success of the "laser additive manufacturing" technology.
4. Ultrashort pulse laser micromachining.
The picosecond and femtosecond lasers with pulse durations of 10-12 seconds and 10-15 seconds produce no excess heat when processing metals, that is, no or only a very small heat-affected zone. They can be used to process brittle materials such as plastics, glass and ceramics, and even almost any metal. The laser removes substances through the method of sublimation (the solid is directly transformed into the gas without passing through the liquid state). The laser-processed edges are of high quality-clean, precise and burr-free.
For example, drilling holes in natural gas injectors must have precise geometries to maximize efficiency. The medical device industry also has many requirements for plastic and metal processing, and ultrashort pulse laser processing can fully meet these requirements. These lasers are often expensive, but their prices are falling. If you need to create a unique part, or want to drastically reduce the subsequent operations of machining, laser micromachining is a good choice.
5. Flat laser cutting.
Although laser cutting is the earliest development, it still has the largest market so far. Thanks to the development of fiber lasers and disk lasers, the cutting speed has been greatly increased. A 2kW fiber or disk laser can cut faster than a 4kW CO2 laser! Recently, these lasers can be controlled externally to optimally cut materials of different thicknesses in a "flying" mode on the assembly line.
The prospect of laser in the manufacturing industry is bright. But there is still a lot of work to be done in the meantime. For example, one of the main obstacles to the application of laser technology is the lack of cognitive education of the labor force in the manufacturing industry on what laser can do. Therefore, this is also one of the purposes of this column. Hope that through the popularization of laser technology, technicians and craftsmen have more knowledge and choices!