“Processing strategy is the deciding factor of laser welding.”
Evelyn Konrad, expert for laser welding in sheet metal processing at TRUMPF, answers questions regarding the economic viability of the method when it comes to small batch sizes.
Ms. Konrad, laser welding offers many advantages, such as reduced rework and higher processing speeds. But is laser welding worth it when it comes to small batch sizes?
Processing strategy is the deciding factor. A maximum degree of automation is generally important in mass production, while flexibility is the key to traditional sheet metal processing. There, small batch sizes are often the rule, with frequently changing component dimensions. Inserting the components is usually done by hand. For such applications, expensive automated clamping fixtures like the ones used in the automotive industry are simply not economical. But there are other clamping systems available that are economical and worth it even for small batch sizes.
Could you please give us an example of these clamping devices?
For small and medium batch sizes, clamping fixtures made of sheet metal components with standardized clamping systems would be an option. Most sheet metal fabricators already have the necessary equipment in their own manufacturing facilities. This means it would be no problem for them to assemble on site an inexpensive, fully functional clamping fixture for laser welding.
These flexible sheet metal clamping fixtures could easily provide the required precision. Furthermore, the endless sheet metal design possibilities open up a variety of additional functions; for instance, a moveable inner core or adjustable stops for clamping fixtures to accommodate components in two sizes.
Another typical and simple variation is to affix the component ahead of time via laser beam or a laser arc datum point. Afterwards, standard clamping levers can also hold the prepared part in place on the working area. For simple components, a clamping fixture with standardized clamping system would be sufficient.
Is there a standard solution available for simple seam geometries?
In such cases, TRUMPF offers a modular clamping system. This means that components for various shapes and sizes – from flat sheets to curved profiles – can be processed on the same clamping fixture. With just a few simple steps, the clamping fixture can be adapted to handle workpieces for 90° corner joints or butt joints as well as heat conduction or deep-penetration welding.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in Summer 2016.