How Laser Processing Solutions Are Changing the World of Manufacturing
Lasers are one of the most interesting pieces of technology out there today. They are often associated with futuristic technologies and sci-fi movies, but lasers have been around for some time. In fact, you would be surprised to learn that the timeline of lasers began not in the 80s or 90s but way back in 1917.
This was the year when Einstein predicted “Stimulated Emission”, the basis for understanding and creating lasers. There were many more developments and theories about lasers in the following years, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the first prototype was built. The credit for that goes to Theodore Maiman.
Regardless of their origins, lasers are being used in a variety of modern applications to great effect. Laser processing has been used in applications related to the fields of medicine, aerospace, electronics, architecture, jewelry, and more. However, it is the field of manufacturing that is the most intriguing when talking about laser processing.
Why Lasers Are the Future of the Manufacturing Industry
Today, lasers enable manufacturers to create intricate and complex designs that would have been impossible or really expensive to replicate before. This is partly because the cost of laser production and laser manufacturing equipment, while still high, has started to become slightly affordable.
New trends in laser manufacturing include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize laser processes. Manufacturers utilize laser sensors to gather data and, through analysis, detect patterns and fine-tune laser parameters like power and speed. This not only enhances efficiency but also elevates the final product quality.
In a fascinating new trend within the manufacturing world, hybrid laser systems are emerging as a powerful tool. By combining lasers with other manufacturing technologies, such as waterjets, cutting speeds improve and material waste decreases. Industrial laser equipment is widely adopting this approach, marking a significant shift in the field.
The production of lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber composites, is another area where lasers are proving to be a game-changer. The precision and waste reduction achieved through the use of lasers and laser tools in shaping and cutting these materials are remarkable.
Laser processing is also being used to create functional coatings on surfaces, including anti-corrosion coatings, which increase the durability and lifespan of products.
In addition, the fabrication of micro and nanoscale structures, such as microfluidic devices and sensors, is another exciting new frontier in laser processing. With the precision and accuracy offered by lasers, manufacturers can produce smaller and more complex designs, with vital applications in the electronics and medical industries where miniaturization is key.
How Can Lasers Help Your Manufacturing Process?
Lasers processing solutions have become essential in modern manufacturing as their applications span numerous industries. There are different ways that lasers are being used with great effect in the manufacturing and processing of products.
Companies like Novanta Photonics have emerged as prominent figures in the field of laser processing. Their ability to offer customized lasers and beam delivery solutions for a variety of industries and niches has enabled them to push the world of manufacturing to greater levels.
Testimonials and success stories highlight the versatility of Novanta in connecting clients with the right sort of product for their specific needs.
For instance, a major cell phone company required a premium metallic finish on plastic frames. Novanta was able to deliver a precision laser processing solution that involved a ti100p CO2 laser with a 9.3 μm wavelength and wide frequency range. This allowed the client to achieve the premium look that they were after.
Some of the different ways that laser processing solutions from companies like Novanta can help manufacturing companies include:
Cutting: Laser cutting offers a lot of accuracy and precision when cutting different kinds of materials. These materials may include plastics, ceramics, and metals.
The flexibility that laser cutting offers is particularly useful when producing intricate shapes and minute details. This makes it a great option for both prototype and mass-production needs.
Modern laser processing systems also make use of computer software that controls the laser beam-cutting process. This ensures the accuracy and repeatability of laser cutting. Based on the material being cut, laser software programs can adjust cutting speed, power, and focus, along with a number of other parameters.
Some cutting lasers are also used for engraving and branding different materials meaning laser cutting isn't simply restricted to cutting but also marking. The adaptability of lasers makes them an essential tool in a number of sectors in the manufacturing of materials related to aerospace, automotive, medical equipment, and electronics.
Welding: Lasers are now starting to be used for high-speed and high-quality welding. Why? When compared to traditional welding, the use of lasers allows for a highly precise and efficient process that produces high-quality welds with minimal distortion or heat-affected zones.
This makes it almost perfect when you need to join thin or delicate parts.
The application of laser welding is quite vast and varied and spans numerous industries. In the automotive industry, for example, laser welding is often used to join body panels, exhaust systems, and similar components.
In aerospace, laser welding is used to join turbine blades, fuel tanks, or other critical components. The same is true for the electronics industry, where laser welding is used with microelectronic components and other delicate parts.
It is inevitable that laser welding will soon become an essential part of the manufacturing processes in several industries.
Laser Drilling: Lasers micro drilling process allows for precise and accurate drilling of various materials such as metals and ceramics. Laser drilling can produce holes of different shapes and sizes with high accuracy and consistency.
One of the most unique aspects of laser drilling is that it can drill through materials much faster than traditional methods, reducing production time significantly. The drilling process with lasers also produces very little waste, as the material being drilled is vaporized rather than cut away into shavings or removed.
Common examples of laser drilling in the manufacturing industry include the creation of cooling holes in turbine blades, fuel nozzles, or other critical components.
Laser drilling is often used to create tiny holes in printed circuit boards and other microelectronic components and in the manufacturing of medical equipment.
Laser Marking: One of the most common applications of lasers is for the purpose of marking and engraving. Such marking is used for a variety of purposes, such as creating identification marks, barcodes, and logos.
Laser marking is a non-contact method, meaning it does not damage the surface of the material being marked.
As you can imagine, this is especially important for delicate parts that cannot withstand the force of traditional marking methods, such as stamping or machine engraving.
Moreover, unlike traditional marking methods that can be quite time-consuming with all the set-up and preparation that is needed, laser marking can be completed quite rapidly. This makes it a great option for industries that require a lot of marking work on a daily basis, such as automotive and consumer goods manufacturing.
The future of laser processing in manufacturing is really interesting. Advancements seem to keep happening, and the possibilities for the use of lasers in manufacturing are endless. The use of lasers in manufacturing has already proven its worth in terms of significant cost savings and improved product quality.
Laser processing’s contribution to efficiency and precision makes it something worth considering for any business or company involved in manufacturing.