Welding has long been a mainstay operation
in sectors as varied as automobile manufacturing, and large-scale
construction, but conventional welding methods are laborious and
time-consuming and require a high degree of skill. More recently,
the use of robotics has increased the speed and precision of welding
operations. Now the application of laser technology promises further
This project was aimed at developing a
new system for industrial-scale welding of aluminium alloys, using
high-powered Nd-YAG lasers. Weld quality assessments pointed to
continuous wave as the most efficient laser mode, displaying high
beam quality when compared with pulse and pulse-sustainer modes.
The new system includes fully automated robotics and can operate
at 10 metres per minute on 2mm-thick sheets in three dimensions,
a five-fold increase in speed relative to conventional methods.
A weld quality monitoring device using light reflected from the
welding zone was also developed.
The new system produces high-quality welds
with excellent mechanical properties. Applications in the production
of light cars are envisaged for the near future. Partners say their
results are an important contribution to the maintenance of European
leadership in industrial science and technology.