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Laser welding in the right light
Date:2/2/2011

This release is available in German.

It's a quick process, generates almost no waste and is extremely precise: within a few seconds, a laser beam has welded the casing and speedometer cover together without any screws, clamps or glues whatsoever. The result is a perfect weld seam scarcely visible to the naked eye. There are no sparks or particles flying through the air during welding. What's more: the resulting heat is confined to a minimal area. This protects the material. Many industries have now turned to welding plastics with a laser.

Still, the technology has its limits; when it comes to fusing two plastic components together, for instance, there is little freedom of choice. Up until now, the upper joining part had to be transparent to permit the laser to shine through unimpeded while the lower joining part absorbed the radiation. This usually meant soot particles had to be blended into the plastic. These particles absorb the energy of the laser beam and transmit the fusion heat generated to the upper joining part. "Up until now, you usually had to choose a single plastic combination: transparent and black. There are lots of applications in medical technology, for instance where what's needed is a combination of two transparent plastics," explains Dr.-Ing. Alexander Olowinsky, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, Germany. The researcher and his team have now managed to erase the previous boundaries of laser welding.

"The industry now also makes infrared absorbers that are nearly transparent, but these are not only very expensive but also have a green, yellowish tint to them," Olowinsky elaborates. "So our goal was to find a way to get the job done completely free of absorber materials." To accomplish this, researchers studied the absorption spectra of a range of transparent polymers in se
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Contact: Dr. Alexander Olowinsky
alexander.olowinsky@ilt.fraunhofer.de
49-241-890-6491
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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