Types of material to be welded. Lasers can weld many types of materials together including many types of stainless steel, titanium, copper, and aluminum (although the two pieces being welded must be different kinds of aluminum). However, not all metal combinations are “bondable.” In conventional welding the metals don’t bond directly with each other but with the filler. So metal-to-metal compatibility is not an issue — which is why conventional welding can weld more types of metal than laser welding.
Material thickness. Laser welding is suitable for jobs ranging from as thin as 100µm up to about 8 mm (in the case of steel). That means that laser welding can be used for jobs where the metal is so thin that conventional welding would destroy it. On the other hand, conventional welding can easily handle large pieces — such as large pipes or structural beams in a building — that laser welding can’t.
Precision. The power output, size of weld, depth of weld, speed of weld, and the track of the laser beam on the metal surface are all highly controllable. The result is a very precise weld — you heat just what you want to heat to the degree you wish to heat it. Among other advantages versus conventional welding, there’s less likelihood of damaging or deforming the surrounding surfaces or components like electrical components that may already be installed.
Automation. Another benefit of a highly controlled process is that laser welding is highly programmable and robotic. Since it’s easier to automate compared to MIG or TIG welding methods, greater repeatability and faster throughput can be achieved.
Contamination. With laser welding, the only materials involved are the metals to be welded. For best results the metals must be cleaned of any oil and dirt prior to welding. The welding itself introduces no filler or slag that could contaminate application environments, such as an operating room in the case of surgical instruments.
Environmental impact. A cleaner process also means there’s much less impact on the environment.
Corrosion. With some metals such as steel, aluminum and titanium alloys, brittleness can result from conventional welding if the electrode used for welding contains traces of moisture. The heat of the welding causes the water to decompose and release hydrogen that enters the metal causing it to become brittle. This can’t happen with laser welding because there is no electrode.
LASER WELDING ADVANTAGES
- Cleaner — no excess bonding material or slag to clean off
- Less possibility of contamination
- Can weld more complex shapes
- More precise — for smaller objects, tighter spaces
- Can weld thinner metals
- More highly repeatable results
- Easier to automate
- Less chance of deforming or damaging nearby areas
- More environmentally friendly
- Less likely to corrode
ARC WELDING ADVANTAGES
- More suitable for welding large structures
- Wider range of materials can be welded
- Can weld thicker materials
- Are you looking for a very precise weld?
- Do you require an intricate weld pattern or is the area to be welded difficult to reach?
- Is minimal cleanup, low contamination risk, and low environmental impact important?
- Do you need to integrate welding with other manufacturing steps — so automation and high repeatability are both key?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you may wish to consider laser-welding, especially if the metals to be welded together are thin. One way to know for sure which method of welding is best is by discussing your application with a laser-welding expert first, before you commit to a process.