Businesses must always make innovative decisions to stay relevant. Every day, newer manufacturing technologies are being implemented to overcome the shortcomings of traditional methods. These technologies, including a handheld laser, boost productivity and improve customer satisfaction.
Many models and brands are in the market, which can make getting one challenging. If you make an irrational investment in an overpriced machine, this would tell on your company’s finances. Also, without proper understanding, you can get a machine that can cause welding defects. This article will discuss everything you need to know before getting one.
What Are Handheld Laser Welders?
This welding machine built on the laser welding system uses a generated laser beam to join two materials. The generated laser beam heats and melts the materials, and on cooling, the welded joint becomes strong and precise.
These machines are portable and lightweight. Furthermore, they have fewer HAZ zones than other welding systems, such as TIG and MIG welding. They also offer flexibility in welding operations.
The most common reason for the adoption of a handheld laser welder is the ability to weld very thin materials used and produced by several industries.
Components of a Handheld Laser Beam Welding Machine
Every handheld laser welder contain the following the component:
· Laser source
The laser source is the most important component of a handheld laser welding machine, and it directly affects the machine’s final weld area and life span. The most common sources are a solid-state laser and a fiber laser delivery such as HeatSign handheld laser welder. Both emit high-power laser beams and can weld thicker materials. They are more compact and provide higher welding speeds.
· Optical Cavity
The optical cavity surrounds the laser source. It consists of two reflective mirrors placed above and below the gain medium. The mirror surfaces serve as an amplifying system for the laser beam. As the laser beam bounces back and forth, they increase the length of the gain medium.
Furthermore, the degree of reflectivity varies between both mirrors. The first mirror reflects all light into the laser cavity. However, the mirror on the opposite side permits a small beam to exit the cavity to interact with the material.
· Cooling System
Laser welding is heat intensive. If heat is not removed or appropriately dissipated, it deforms thin materials. As a result, a cooling system is a critical part of the machine.
Experts use two main types of cooling systems when welding: liquid cooling and air cooling. Liquid cooling uses coolants, including water and other coolant fluids, which are transported directly to the parts generating heat. This provides a more efficient cooling medium.
· Power Supply
The electrical system provides the power that runs a handheld laser welding machine. The electrical current gets transformed into laser light that interacts with the materials. Controlling and monitoring the power density is important during welding as any change (even minute) can irreversibly damage the laser optics.
Furthermore, some handheld laser welding machines can be battery-operated. The battery type may vary based on the design of the welding equipment.
· Protective Housing
The laser welding machines must have protective housing to guarantee the operator’s safety. It ensures that the laser radiation in contact with the operator is within the MPE level.
Additionally, protective housing combines shielding windows, physical barriers, ventilation, and safety interlocks. They adequately contain the welding area and laser beam delivery system while granting the welder access to the entire welding operation.
· Welding Head
The welding head is responsible for delivering a highly concentrated laser beam to the welding joint for welding to take place. It comprises a focusing lens, shielding gas, and a protective nozzle which should come from highly durable material. It is also possible to adjust the machine parameters laser welding head to control heat input and distribution during the welding.
· Gas Supply System
The gas supply system ensures a smooth run of this heat-conduction welding process. This system provides gas, including helium and argon, that protects the welding area from unintended reactions with atmospheric content. When the atmospheric mixture reacts with the molten material, nitrogen embrittlement and oxidation can occur. The gasses also prevent weld contamination by removing impurities from the material surface.
Factors to Consider Before Getting a Handheld Laser Welding Machine
Before deciding on a handheld laser welder, consider the factors highlighted below.
· Power And Energy Requirements
Before investing in a handheld laser welding machine, you must check the power and energy requirements. This is because the power density of this machine may determine its welding capacity. The requirement to run different handheld laser welding systems varies. Hence, one must ensure the facility’s energy supply can handle the machine’s current and voltage specifications.
Furthermore, it is an added advantage if the handheld laser welding machine has energy-saving features such as automatic shutdown and standby mode. These features help to conserve energy by reducing power consumption.
· Application and Material Considerations
Weldability depends on the type of material, even though laser welding has a wide material compatibility. Some material types may need higher power densities than others. For instance, metals generally have good weldability properties compared to polymers and glass. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Most metals have excellent heat absorption properties. They also have a high cooling rate leaving a weld zone free from cracks. On the other hand, plastic is a poor conductor of heat. However, they generate minimal fumes, which makes them ideal for many applications.
· Laser Beam Delivery System
Assessing the hardware component that delivers the laser beam from the source to the material surface is important. This component plays a huge role in the performance and capabilities of the machine. Furthermore, you should ensure the machine uses a fiber optic delivery system for complete penetration. This type of laser beam delivery system is flexible and versatile, allowing the welding of complex and thick materials.
· Cost and Budget Considerations
The cost of the machine may be the most influential factor when considering buying it. The golden rule is to buy a machine that fits your budget, has a long-term worth, and can effectively do your business need. It would not be economical to go for an overpriced machine that does not have specialized functions. However, one should not prioritize cost over quality. Consider buying the most cost-effective machine that meets your manufacturing requirements.
· Maintenance and Service
Though most brands of handheld laser welding machines are durable, there is always the possibility of breakdown. Before investing in any, make sure the supplier provides post-purchase support. This will save you the stress of looking for a reliable service company if the machine gets faulty.
Furthermore, the ease and expenses associated with periodic maintenance should be considered. This includes the cost of servicing, calibration, and replacement of damaged parts.
· Reviews and Recommendations
Checking reviews and asking experts for recommendations with help you gather valuable information before making your final decision. However, ensure to use multiple sources to avoid biased information. This will also help you fully understand the pros and cons of handheld laser welding machines.
How To Set Up and Install a Handheld Laser Welding Machine
There are four steps to set up and install a handheld laser welder, as highlighted below:
· Step 1: Preparing the Workplace
In this step, you ensure that the environment where you will work with the handheld laser welding machine is set up
- Choose a well-ventilated area with controlled temperature and humidity levels.
- Clean all dirt and debris, as they can cause damage to the laser system.
- Ensure that the appropriate PPEs are available to prevent accidental exposure to laser radiation.
· Step 2: Position the Machine and Install the Software
After successfully purchasing a handheld laser welding machine,
- Carefully unpack the machine and check for any loose or damaged components.
- If the machine is in order, place it on a level surface.
- Integrate the cooling and gas supply system based on the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Switch on the machine
- Install the software.
– Step 3: Test Run the Machine
Finally, test runs the machine to check how it works. To do this,
- Calibrate the machine and adjust the laser parameters
- Following the instructions in the manual, create a simple weld joint with waste materials.
- Inspect the weld quality is up to standard.
Note: Ensure you train new laser welders for safety purposes and to improve performance
Advantages of Handheld Laser Beam Welding Machines
The introduction of handheld laser welding machines has brought about a remarkable change in manufacturing industries. The following are some advantages of using a handheld laser welding system for your applications.
· Portability and Versatility
This machine is compact and lightweight. They are ideal for heavy equipment and hard-to-reach parts that may be difficult for heavy welding machines. Furthermore, the size of the machine does not limit its capability. Because of their weight, they are suitable for a variety of applications. They are a valuable tool for manufacturing and repairing operations.
The technologies and software that come with handheld laser marking systems are advanced. When comparing the machine to the MIG welding machine, there is higher production efficiency, precision, speed, and cost efficiency. Furthermore, handheld laser welders do not generate much waste.
These portable devices consume relatively low energy. This is an additional means to reduce a company’s operating costs while contributing to environmental sustainability.
· Small Heat-Affected Zone
They have a small heat-affected zone, which ensures that the welded joint is as accurate and has little heat impact on areas adjacent to the welding joint. The laser beam of a handheld welding machine is adequately focused on the material joint, which limits the amount of heat that gets transferred. This property makes them applicable for use in the manufacturing industries. They are the go-to machine to weld small and delicate pieces that are heat sensitive.
The machines have an intuitive user interface, making them easier for people of different technical minds. With a single button push, the laser welder can adjust the laser parameters to suit your project needs. This reduces the chance of occupational hazards and promotes operator satisfaction.
Getting the right handheld laser welding machine may determine the overall success of the welding process. One must consider the abovementioned factors to increase welding quality and boost productivity. Feel free to contact us with further questions regarding handheld laser welding machines or get the HeatSign Handheld Laser Welder with an immense quality outlook.
What are the applications of handheld laser welding machines?
The application is more industrial and falls in between product manufacturing and repairing. They are used for welding metals, including high-carbon steels, because of their high accuracy and precision. Furthermore, they can weld plastics hence their use in plastic fabrication, including automotive bumpers and plastic packaging.
What is the total cost of running a laser welding system?
The cost of running a standard laser welding machine extends past one’s initial investment. The power consumption rate, consumables, labor costs, servicing fee and cost of implementing safety measures all contribute to the cost of running a laser system.
Can a handheld laser welding machine join different materials?
Yes, some handheld laser welders are compatible with dissimilar material welding. However, you should check and confirm the similarity of the material’s properties and its compatibility before welding. Properties should include melting point, thermal conductivity and electrochemical characteristics.