Lasers in car manufacture

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




(2000), "Lasers in car manufacture", Assembly Automation, Vol. 20 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Lasers in car manufacture

Lasers in car manufacture

Keywords: Engineering, Industry, Technology

Lasers play a key role in modern production - for such tasks as cutting sheet metal to size, welding containers and trimming circuit. But their potential is far from exhausted. The automobile industry is playing a pioneering role in the introduction of new laser types and machining processes. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, in Aachen, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS, in Dresden, are contributing to many developments in this field. At Laser 99 the institutes presented some of their current work.

The ILT is presenting new applications for high-performance diode lasers and diode-pumped solid-state lasers. For the first time, a demonstration unit for welding plastic filter housings will show how easily compact and sturdy diode lasers can be integrated in robots. The robot arm incorporates a gripper unit and the optics for the diode laser. The laser welds the two plastic parts together with an overlap joint. In the technique applied the laser beam penetrates the upper transparent part without damaging it and is only effective on the second part, which has a strongly absorbent surface. The melt produced in this thin zone gently forms a high-quality positive joint. This technique for joining plastics can be used for welding even complex geometries and areas which are difficult to access.

Hybrid processes are a speciality of the scientists working at IWS, in Dresden. For instance, they combine laser technology with induction heating. Inductively boosted laser-beam welding produces crack-free welded joints, even on hardenable steels and special alloys. The welding speed can reach several metres per minute. Two German car makers are already operating laser induction welding units in series production. DaimlerChrysler, for example, use them to weld gear components for the A-Class.

Further details from: Dr Peter Loosen. Tel: +49 (0) 2 41/89 06-1 62; Fax: +49 (0) 2 41/89 06-1 21. E-mail: Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT, Steinbachstra&#223:e 15, D-52074 Aachen, Germany.

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