The flexibility offered by fibre optic delivery of laser power is significant both in a laboratory environment and industrial production. TWI has recently acquired three new, production level, continuous wave, high power Nd:YAG lasers, from Haas Laser GmbH. This company has been manufacturing lasers for welding applications since 1972 and in 1982, became part of the Trumpf machine tool group.
Two of the lasers can deliver 3kW of output power to the workpiece via single optical fibres. The third laser, which can deliver 4kW of output power, is also equipped with a beam switch facility which allows the laser power to be diverted into one of three permanently connected optical fibres. With the lasers positioned in any convenient place in the laboratory, the output power can be easily directed to three different workstations.
The lasers can also be used in conjunction with a 'beam combining device'. This system receives the power delivered from each of the three lasers and combines it onto the end of a single fibre, which is then used to transfer the combined laser power to a welding head. Using this system it is possible to laser weld with 8-9kW of Nd:YAG laser power, a facility believed to be unique in Europe.
Since installation of the Haas lasers, their beams have been used singly for the welding of steel, or singly but with the beam focus split into two spots for welding aluminium, titanium and nickel alloys. They can also be used with dual beams to achieve simultaneous two sided welding of aluminium panels and with combined beams to investigate both autogenous laser and hybrid arc laser welding of pipeline steels.
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