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Laser

Laser beam welding (LBW) is a welding technique used to join multiple pieces of metal through the use of a laser. The beam provides a concentrated heat source, allowing for narrow, deep welds and high welding rates. The process is frequently used in high volume applications, such as in the automotive industry

Laser cutters typically work much like a milling machine would for working a sheet in that the laser (equivalent to the mill) enters through the side of the sheet and cuts it through the axis of the beam. In order to be able to start cutting from somewhere else than the edge, a pierce is done before every cut. Piercing usually involves a high power pulsed laser beam which slowly (taking around 5-15 seconds for half-inch thick stainless steel, for example) makes a hole in the material.

There are generally three different types of industrial laser cutting machines. Flying optics lasers usually feature a stationary X and Y axis table where the cutting laser moves over the work piece in both of the horizontal dimensions. Flying optics-type cutters are popular due to the low cost of stationary tables, and their higher cutting speed limits, since the mass of the optics is much smaller than the mass of the table.

Flying optic machines must use some method to take into account the changing beam length from near field (close to resonator) cutting to far field (far away from resonator) cutting. Common methods for controlling this include collimation, adaptive optics or the use of a constant beam length axis.

Laser engraving is the practice of using lasers to engrave or mark an object (it is also sometimes incorrectly described as etching, which involves the use of acid or a similar chemical). The technique can be very technical and complex, and often a computer system is used to drive the movements of the laser head. Despite this complexity, very precise and clean engravings can be achieved at a high rate. The technique does not involve tool bits which contact the engraving surface and wear out. This is considered an advantage over alternative engraving technologies where bit heads have to be replaced regularly.

The impact of laser engraving has been more pronounced for specially-designed "laserable" materials. These include polymer and novel metal alloys.

In situations where physical alteration of a surface by engraving is undesirable, an alternative such as "marking" is available. This is a generic term that covers a broad spectrum of surfacing techniques, including printing and hot-branding. In many instances, laser engraving machines are able to do marking that would have been done by other processes.

Laser cladding uses powder normally of a metallic nature, and is injected into the system by either coaxial or lateral nozzles. The interaction of the metallic powder stream and the laser causes melting to occur, and is known as the melt pool. This is deposited onto a substrate; moving the substrate allows the melt pool to solidify and thus produces a track of solid metal. This is the most common technique, however some processes involve moving the laser/nozzle assembly over a stationary substrate to produce solidified tracks. The motion of the substrate is guided by a CAD system which interpolates solid objects into a set of tracks, thus producing the desired part at the end of the trajectory.


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