Hybrid welding systems are gaining ground in more markets
Hybrid welding systems are making inroads in automated fabricating processes because they hold the promise of improving process efficiency and productivity, improving weld quality and lowering production costs.
The biggest market for such systems is automotive, in particular, hybrid laser arc welding systems, where manufacturers have moved to high strength steel designs with hybrid laser butt welds to create stronger, yet lighter weight vehicles.
Other markets considering or implementing hybrid welding systems include telecommunications equipment and construction materials such as tubes and pipes.
Advantages and Limits
- increased productivity
- lower operating costs
- improved weld quality: higher weld penetration of the laser beam eliminates need for time-consuming seam preparation
- reduced distortion because of significantly reduced heat input
- mass reduction: can increase material yield strength by 30 to 50 per cent while increasing cost by only 10 to 20 per cent.
- joint tolerances: requires a significantly better part fit up.
- joint volume: requires a weld joint design that makes the best use of the penetrating capability of the laser while minimizing the rate required from the GMAW system.
- higher cost than conventional welding equipment
What is Hybrid Laser Welding?
Hybrid laser welding combines a laser beam and a second energy source, usually an electric arc, and is typically done with the addition of filler metal. The most common hybridization of a laser couples it with a Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) process. The laser provides a small, but high energy density spot that stabilizes the arc process and often increases the penetration and effective throat depth of the weld.
Hybrid laser arc welding can be implemented in a many ways and can range from deep penetration or “keyhole” welding to something known as “laser assisted” or “laser augmented” welding. The selection of the type of hybrid process depends on the application and the objectives of the user. This will drive the equipment configuration and operating parameters.
Primary applications include butt, corner, tee and lap joints.
Edward E. Hansen is the global product manager with ESAB North America, Florence, SC