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New laser materials processing equipment at TWI

Connect no. 169

Hybrid laser arc set-up with an adaptive control vision
Hybrid laser arc set-up with an adaptive control vision

During 2010 TWI has continued its major investment in high power laser materials processing equipment. Four state-of-the-art Yb-fibre lasers are now operational at TWI in Cambridge, to enhance the portfolio of laser processing services offered to Industrial Members. With a number of new processing heads now available at TWI, these Yb-fibre lasers are suited for a diverse range of welding, cutting and surfacing applications. The investment reflects the growing take up of Yb-fibre laser technology and the increasing adoption of laser-based materials processing solutions in many industry sectors.

Laser welding with a 200W Yb-fibre laser
Laser welding with a 200W Yb-fibre laser

The four continuous-wave Yb-fibre lasers, which have maximum rated output powers of 5kW, 1kW, 200W and 20W, are typical of the range of solid-state lasers now being adopted by industry. Advantages of adopting fibre or disc laser technology include: high wall plug efficiency, excellent beam quality, fibre optic delivery (allowing easy robotic automation), small footprint and long service intervals. The range of output powers and focused beam properties allow a wide range of materials to be processed.

For welding applications, the 5kW Yb-fibre laser is capable of at least 8mm penetration depth in most metallic materials and it is possible to increase joint-gap tolerance using wire feed, oscillation of the laser beam and/or a hybrid laser arc process. Furthermore, Industrial Members now have access to a laser camera vision system which allows seam tracking, adaptive control and even post-weld inspection of bead geometries. At the other thickness extreme, metallic foils of total thickness <500µm can be joined at welding speeds of ~500mm/s using the 200W Yb-fibre laser.

The 5 and 1kW lasers are also ideally suited for high quality cutting of sheet metal up to 3mm in thickness, with work in progress to increase this thickness. Compared with traditional CO2 laser cutting, a 300% increase in cutting speed can be achieved using Yb-fibre lasers. This enhanced process speed, combined with the increased wall plug efficiency, enables large cost savings. Where high cut quality is not a requirement, cut depths of up to 50mm have already been achieved with the new Yb-fibre lasers.

Single sided tube-in-tube cutting with a 5kW Yb-fibre laser
Single sided tube-in-tube cutting with a 5kW Yb-fibre laser

Robotic manipulation equipment is on hand both for high precision applications and workpieces up to 5m in length. In addition, a 3D scanning head is now available for remote welding, sublimation cutting, marking and laser Surfi-Sculpt® applications with the 1kW laser.

The 20W Yb-fibre laser is coupled to a fast 2D scanning head, scanning over a precision 3D displacement stage. This laser-optic combination is suitable for micro-marking, scribing, Clearweld® operations on plastics and thin film ablation.

Several successful projects have already been carried out using the new equipment. These include concrete scabbling, pipe cutting, hybrid laser arc welding of steel, stainless steel and aluminium alloy, welding of metallic foil, high quality welding of titanium alloy, transmission joining of plastic, and patterning of nano-material coatings.

To discuss the suitability of this equipment for meeting your business needs please contact

For more information please email: