Laser welding is a welding process involving the use of a laser beam to bond materials, such as metals, together. This technique produces narrow and deep welds at high rates due to the concentrated heat source created by the laser beam. Industrial robots such as the FANUC Arcmate 120ic can be integrated with a laser welding head to automate this application making it ideal for high volume productions. Laser welding robots are commonly seen in the automotive, aerospace, and heavy equipment industries where the combination of speed and precision is necessary.
There are three different types of lasers available to complete a laser welding application. These types are:
Solid-State Lasers - Solid-state lasers are one of the most common types used for laser welding. They can operate in both pulsed and continuous modes and involve the use of a crystal to produce the laser beam and join materials together.
Gas Lasers - Gas lasers are another common type of laser used in laser welding applications. They involve the use of a mixture of gases such as helium, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to produce a laser beam. Gas lasers can also operate in pulsed or continuous modes.
Fiber Lasers - Fiber lasers are the least common out of the three types, but are gaining popularity among the industrial world, especially for integrating laser welding applications with a robot. These involve the use of an optical fiber to produce the laser beam for welding.
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to increase their productivity while also not sacrificing on product quality which is why many are integrating laser welding applications with robots like the ABB IRB 4400/L10. Laser welding robots work at speeds much faster than a human welder and are able to complete welds in just one run. They can maintain their speed and distance from the workpiece without deviation, producing clean and even welds. It is just not feasible for a human welder to produce the same welds as a robot repeatedly. Holding a welding gun for several hours can become tiring for a human welder. This fatigue can result in deviation from the work path along with mistakes. This not only effects product quality, but also slows productions as time is taken away to correct those errors.
Another advantage of robotic laser welding is their unmatched level of precision. Robots such as the Yaskawa Motoman MH-50-20 and the FANUC M-710ic/20L are ideal for laser welding because they produce a small heat affected zone. This means less heat is used and concentrated to a smaller area of the workpiece preventing oxidation and defects from forming. This provides manufacturers with more freedom as they are capable of welding a variety of materials without failure, yet another advantage to automating with robots. Welding seams are less visible producing more uniform products with little to no additional refinishing needed. Because manual laser welding is not as precise this can result in the formation of defects which will need to be grinded down and polished before being complete. More time and money are then spent while with robotic laser welding saves on these costs as clean welds do not require additional touch ups. Oxidation and defects of workpieces can also lead to product failures, decreasing longevity.
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