Since the industrial revolution, manufacturing has depended on continual technological advances in automation. Today more than ever, the sophistication and complexity of automation continues to set the pace for the evolution of manufacturing. Companies are feverishly competing for the implementation of these new technologies in order to remain at the forefront of their industries. Below we keep track of some of the latest technological advances that help fuel the efficiency and growth of today’s factories.
Diode lasers are incredible devices that are routinely becoming smaller and more powerful each year. They allow for better robotics integration and ease of implementation in factory environments. Prices have dramatically fallen allowing more industries to utilize these excitingly useful, nimble devices.
One diode laser element may provide a power output of only a couple watts. When multiple lasers are fabricated on a single monolithic substrate, it significantly increases the power output up to 100 watts. These individuals’ monoliths can be combined into a combination of vertical and horizontal stacks to produce power outputs in the kilowatts.
Diode laser technology has undergone exponential advancement over the last few years. Today’s diode lasers operate in the 800 to 940 nanometer near-infrared spectrum.
A big advantage of diode lasers is their efficiency. Where CO2 lasers are approximately 20 percent efficient, a high-power diode laser comes in at 40 percent efficiency.
Another cost-saving advantage is their long life. A typical diode laser will last more than 30,000 hours compared to a lamp-pumped Nd:YAG laser that needs to be changed-out every thousand hours or so.
Diode Lasers in the Plastic Industry
For plastic welding purposes, diode lasers are revolutionizing and streamlining the industry. The TransTWIST laser welding machine developed by Fraunhofer ILT welds two transparent plastic parts without the need for energy absorbers. This laser produces a seamless weld that greatly increases the seam quality and efficiency of the welding process of plastics. Couple this with the elimination of the need for laser beam reflective energy absorbers and you can immediately see the advantages of this new breed of laser.
Diode Lasers in the Automotive Industry
The automotive industry is faced with the need to meet increasingly higher fleet gas mileage standards. The latest standards will be 54.5 mpg by 2025. This will require manufacturers to utilize every possible trick to reduce weight, and advance engine technology to improve mileage.
The German car manufacturer Audi has moved to aluminum chassis to reduce the weight of their Audi A8. Aluminum presents challenges in manufacturing and welding when combining parts. There are a few options for binding aluminum including MIG welding old fashion riveting and laser welding technologies. Laser technologies include Nd:YAG, CO2 and fiber lasers.
At their Ingolstadt Germany factory, Audi has been using 13-kW diode lasers of such superiority that they allow for an almost invisible weld of the aluminum car shell. The welds are superior cosmetically and structurally and they are made twice as fast compared to other welding methods. Audi is enjoying a full 25 percent greater efficiency over other tactile methods on this assembly line. One addition benefit to the process is that they no longer need to use filler. Combined with a beam converter and tracking system, this laser is able to achieve a very consistent welding depth for near perfect welds of aluminum.