What is laser beam welding?

Laser beam welding is used in aircraft construction.

Laser beam welding is a method of fusing two pieces of metal using a high temperature laser. This technique uses one of two types of welding equipment: a solid state welder or a gas laser welder. These machines create a precise bond, emitting a dense photon beam that can work with both thin and thick pieces of metal. This type of welder is popular in the production of planes, cars and spacecraft, but it has some disadvantages that prohibit it from working in all industries.

Welding with laser beams works because of a dense beam of photons that each type of machine produces. This beam of light quickly heats metals so that the two pieces fuse into one. The light beam is very small and focused, so the metal weld also cools down very quickly. Laser beam welding machines can emit a continuous beam to work with thicker metals, or short pulse bursts to bond thinner materials.

No matter what material is being worked on, one of two types of welders is used for the job. A solid state welder uses a crystal surrounded by a flash tube to create the energy needed in laser beam welding. A gas laser uses nitrogen, carbon dioxide or helium to produce a laser. A gas welding machine is often preferred over a solid state because it has a higher power output.

Laser beam welding works well with metals such as steel, aluminum and titanium. Consequently, industries using these metals typically adopt laser welders. Automotive, aeronautical and aerospace production facilities are well known as the main users of the laser beam welding technique. In addition to working well with these metals, laser welders are also preferred because they can produce accurate welds at the high volume needed by production lines.

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The laser beam welding industry has used lasers for their speed, accuracy and power, but there are also a few reasons why some do not use this technology. There is a concern about damage to the retina when using laser welders, especially solid state machines. To counteract this, operators are encouraged to wear protective eyewear. Another concern is cracking. Metals such as high carbon steels often crack due to the rapid cooling rate of a laser weld.

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