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Key criteria for choosing

a laser manufacturer
can be established by a
single attribute.

Booth A1802

Unwilling to settle for anything less than the duces world-class lasers and automated systems to
optimal fiber laser source, AMADA became the first meet the distinct needs of North American fabricators.
manufacturer to develop its own fiber laser specifically As the global leader in the engineering and
engineered for cutting. From its state-of-the-art Laser manufacturing of advanced metalworking equipment
Manufacturing Facility in Brea, CA, AMADA also pro- and automated systems, no other company is better
equipped to provide you with the ideal laser cutting
solution for your specific needs. If compromise is not
• Fiber Laser Cutting Systems an option for you, contact AMADA today to resolve the
• CO2 Laser Cutting Systems challenges you face.
• Full Range from 2kW - 9kW
• Punch/Fiber Laser Combinations
• Punch/CO2 Laser Combinations
• Rotary Index Systems with both Flat and
Tube Cutting Capabilities
• Modular Automation Systems that easily
transition from a single cycle loader to a 180 Amada Court • Schaumburg, IL 60173 • 877-262-3287
multi-shelf tower system that supports www.amada.com/america
multiple lasers

AmaAme_ILSdec_1709 1 8/25/17 11:54 AM

S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 017 W W W. I N D U S T R I A L - L A S E R S . C O M

- Hot strip
- Batteries

Lasers in China
combo in the shop

flies with

1709ils_C1 1 8/31/17 9:07 AM

1709ils_C2 2 8/31/17 9:07 AM
V O L 3 2 I N O . 5

O C T O B E R 2 0 17

Airbus predicts that

aircraft will someday have
a bionic structure that
mimics bird bones to allow

Features for lighter-weight structure

and open panoramic
views. (Courtesy: Airbus)

5 application report

Additive manufacturing makes
headway in aircraft production
Reduced ecological and environmental 21 user profile
footprint opportunities are big PETER SANDER Laser machine provides
9 technology report speed, flexibility, and higher
Industrial lasers in China: productivity
An observer’s perspective Laser/punch combination meets
product fabrication challenges
Chinese laser manufacturers respond
to changes in the market environment

application report

12 technology report Laser cleaning and polishing

Laser bonding: A new connection approach the mainstream
technology for high currents Adding automated machine vision
enables real-time process monitoring
Process eliminates need for extensive
surface preparation BENJAMIN MEHLMANN

16 application report

Laser machine enables coil 2 Update

joining in continuous strip 27 Calendar

processing lines 27 Ad Index
System can integrate fiber laser 28 My View
Wishing can make it so—in time

W W W. I N D U S T R I A L- L A S E R S . C O M

DABbling CORRECTION In the July/August 2017

A blog by DAVID A. BELFORTE issue article “Trends in the Indian laser

market,” it was stated that Vibrotech sold
David shares his insights and opinions on current over 50 economical fiber laser cutting
activities affecting industrial laser materials processing. machines last year—it should have stated
www.industrial-lasers.com/dabbling.html Laser Technologies as the company.

1709ils_1 1 8/31/17 9:01 AM

Tests on surgical instruments demonstrate
UDI laser marking durability

GERMANY – Add’n Solutions, which

provides Unique Device Identification
(UDI) laser marking on medical devices,
worked in close cooperation with FOBA
Laser Marking + Engraving to conduct
a long-term study on reusable surgi-
cal instruments, with the aim of proving
that laser marks remain clearly readable
despite multiple reprocessing proce-
dures. The UDI must resist increased
wear throughout the whole product life
cycle to ensure safe traceability, which
is also officially required.
The comprehensively documented
study demonstrated that laser-marked,
high-contrast UDI codes can resist
at least 500 sterilization and cleaning
cycles. FOBA’s short-pulse fiber mark-
ing lasers optimally adapt to the sur-
face characteristics of different types
of stainless steel, with appropriate laser
parameters to prevent the inscription
from fading out or corroding. An addi-
tional passivation ensures that the com-
Marks on stainless
plete device, including marked areas, is
steel medical scissors,
protected against corrosion. The ASTM only an additional passivation developed to exactly
reprocessed 500 times
967 standard for stainless steel passiv- match the marking process creates appropriate
with laser annealing, is
ation was used for passivation of the long-term protection against corrosion, ensuring
shown; the UDI marking
instruments. readability of the marks.
is still clearly readable.
In the study, Add’n Solutions used The present study suggests the assumption
(Courtesy: FOBA)
a precisely matched laser marking pro- that marking with an ultrashort-pulse laser does
cess, followed by a cleaning and passiv- not require passivation is incorrect—only accom-
ation cycle. The surgical instruments were then sterilized panied by a passivation process can the complete product
and cleaned 500 times, simulating actual wear conditions be reliably protected.
in a hospital. The steam sterilization was accompanied by The latest legal regulations of the U.S. Food and Drug
an instrument cleaning with high-alkaline cleaners (pH value Administration (FDA) and the European Medical Device
14), which is also equivalent to clinical cleaning procedures. Regulation require that all medical products must bear UDI
A direct mark on a medical product must be of high con- marks, with implementation deadlines that vary according
trast and resistance and also not have a negative impact to the risk class of the device.
on surface quality. Until recently, it was unknown how often An application case study with a detailed description of
laser-marked surgical instruments can be reprocessed the durability test on reusable surgical instruments is avail-
without negatively impacting the quality of the mark. able for free download at www.fobalaser.com.
Notwithstanding the type of laser used (short- or ultra- For more information about Add’n Solutions, please visit
short-pulse laser), the recent study provided evidence that www.addn-solutions.de/en.

2 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_2 2 8/31/17 9:01 AM

Rice University chemists make conductive
laser-induced graphene from wood
HOUSTON, TX – Scientists at Rice University pacitor that had usable performance met-
have made wood into an electrical conduc- rics, Tour says.
tor by turning its surface into graphene [1]. “There are more applications to
Rice chemist James Tour and his col- explore,” Ye says. “For example, we
leagues used carbon dioxide (CO2) laser could use P-LIG in the integration of solar
scribing to blacken a thin-film laser-in- energy for photosynthesis. We believe this
duced graphene (LIG) pattern onto a block discovery will inspire scientists to think
of pine. Laser-induced graphene was dis- about how we could engineer the natu-
covered at Rice in 2014. ral resources that surround us into bet-
Previous iterations of LIG were made ter-functioning materials.”
by heating the surface of a sheet of poly- Tour sees an environmental benefit
imide, an inexpensive plastic, with a laser. from biodegradable electronics, noting
Rather than a flat sheet of hexagonal car- that “graphene is a thin sheet of a natu-
bon atoms, LIG is a foam of graphene rally occurring mineral, graphite, so we
sheets with one edge attached to the
underlying surface and chemically active
edges exposed to the air.
Not just any polyimide would produce
LIG, and some woods are preferred over
others, Tour says. The research team led
by Rice graduate students Ruquan Ye
and Yieu Chyan tried birch and oak, but
found that pine’s cross-linked lignocellu-
lose structure made it better to produce
high-quality graphene than woods with a
lower lignin content. LIG has a high con-
ductivity on the order of 10 Ω per square.
As with polyimide, the process takes
place with a standard industrial CO2 laser
at room temperature and pressure and in
an inert argon or hydrogen atmosphere.
Without oxygen, heat from the laser
doesn’t burn the pine, but transforms the
surface into wrinkled flakes of graphene This Rice University athletics logo is made
foam bound to the wood surface. of laser-induced graphene on a block of
Changing the laser power also changed pine; the scientists used an industrial laser
the chemical composition and thermal sta- to heat the wood and turned its surface
bility of the resulting LIG. At 70% power, into highly conductive graphene. The
the laser produced the highest quality of material could be used for biodegradable
what they dubbed P-LIG, where the P electronics. (Courtesy: Tour Group/Rice Over a Century Serving the Optical Industry
stands for pine. University)
The lab took its discovery a step fur-
ther by turning P-LIG into electrodes for would be sending it back to the ground
splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen from which it came along with the wood
and supercapacitors for energy storage. platform instead of to a landfill full of elec-
For the former, they deposited layers of tronics parts.”
cobalt and phosphorus or nickel and iron
onto P-LIG to make a pair of electrocata- REFERENCE
lysts with high surface areas that proved 1. R. Ye et al., Adv. Mater. (2017); doi:10.1002/
to be durable and effective.
Depositing polyaniline onto P-LIG This article was written by John Wallace,
turned it into an energy-storing superca- senior editor for Laser Focus World.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 3

1709ils_3 3 8/31/17 9:01 AM

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1709ils_4 4 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

makes headway
in aircraft production

onwards) for the com-

pany. The key lesson learned
after seven years, with more than
PETER SANDER 250 metal additive manufacturing proj-
ects so far, is that additive manufacturing
will enable highly integrated and multifunctional
products, with big opportunities in the future in terms
of ecological and environmental footprint.

irbus’ investigations into addi- Materials, processes, and machines
tive manufacturing processes Materials. Because of future business cases, Airbus first
started more than 20 years ago, focused on titanium (Ti6-4), followed by Inox, and is planning
first with plastics and rapid pro- on aluminum applications by the end of 2018. LBM/EBM-based
totyping applications and a few additive manufacturing on Ti6-4 has been on Technology-
years later on laser beam melting Readyness-Level (TRL) 6 since the end of 2015, and the first
(LBM) and electron beam melt- low-rate serial parts were delivered by Premium Aerotech (a
ing (EBM) for metal applications. A problem that still some- subsidiary of Airbus) at the end of 2015.
what exists for the company is coming to additive manufac- One additional opportunity will be available for serial appli-
turing solutions with a solid business case, and how to start cations in 2018 onwards with Scalmalloy, a high-performance
if nearly every industrial decision is driven by business-case aluminum alloy managed by the Airbus subsidiary AP-Works.
discussions. From 2018 onwards, the company will have a first set of additive
Ninety-five percent of the time, additive manufacturing
makes it easier, cheaper, and faster to jump into a project,
rather than trying to get permanently improving basic figures
through deep investigations for future decisions.

Fast-track product developments

One example of additive manufacturing capabilities is the
machines themselves. In 2012, the company started with one
250W (250 × 250 × 280mm) LBM machine, and now has two
to four 400W/1kW lasers (up 800 × 400
× 500mm) in service—a trend that will FIGURE 1. The
continue to be boosted by completely Bionic cabin bracket
new types of multilaser systems in the was produced from
next 10 years. titanium using
Business cases will also be feasible laser beam melting
for low-cost products mid-term (2020 (LBM).

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 5

1709ils_5 5 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

manufacturing materials available to start real serial have been extremely useful for the future of additive manufacturing at Airbus,
production. One of the biggest challenges for future as they have demonstrated technical feasibility and future opportunities for
additive manufacturing serial applications is the avail- real industrial usage of additive manufacturing from 2016 onwards.
ability of low-cost metal powders, so it is good to see There are demonstrated additive manufacturing capabilities in flight safe-
all activities all over the world following that future need. ty-relevant hydraulic components. Up until now, mostly LBM projects have been
Processes. Fused deposition modeling (FDM; using produced—95% of which were manufactured by Airbus partners Laser Centre
Stratasys Fortus machines) has been in serial mode North (LZN), Hofmann Innovation Group, Toolcraft, and AP-Works, among others.
for two years now on Airbus A350 parts. Selective
laser sintering (SLS) with polyamide (PA) has Application examples
been used on demonstrator parts and High-speed development process. The Testing High-tech
first serial applications on helicop- Objectives in Reality (THOR) aircraft, a 3.7m flyable plat-
ters and brackets for the com- form almost completely printed out of plastics and a
pany’s new Beluga transport few aluminum parts, has an in-flight weight less than
aircraft. Because of limited 25kg. The target was to demonstrate additive man-
fire resistance capabil- ufacturing capabilities in competition with theo-
ity, this has not yet been retical investigations. FIGURE 2 shows a success-
applied on passenger fully demonstrated THOR aircraft in service.
aircraft up to now. Flight test LBM hardware. Titanium, Inox,
LBM and EBM with and aluminum parts were tested in service on
metals is now in first several A350/A330NEO test aircrafts, includ-
serial applications, with ing an aluminum camera cover for a vertical tail
wire- and powder-fed plane (FIGURE 3).
high deposition rate (HDR) First serial titanium use on aircraft systems.
processes to mill parts out First delivered in 2016, a Premium AEROTEC
of massive plates targeted for (PAG) titanium double-walled fuel connector that
the end of 2018. replaces a welded cast part assembly had a cost
Machines. The number of addi- reduction of around 50% because no casting tools
tive manufacturing machine suppliers is were needed and lead time was reduced from
increasing rapidly, which leads to competition in FIGURE 2. A Testing months down to 11 weeks (FIGURE 4).
the worldwide market. From an industrial view, in-pro- High-tech Objectives in First serial topology-optimized titanium
cess quality tools play a key role for future automated Reality (THOR) aircraft, brackets. First serial PAG additively manufac-
additive manufacturing facilities. In 10 years, we will produced entirely using tured parts for the A350 aircraft with a weight
see a bundle of different machine sizes and part-spe- additive manufacturing, reduction of 30% will be delivered in the fourth
cific additive manufacturing machines, as well as is shown in flight. quarter of 2017.
multifunctional additive manufacturing systems. For
example, an additive manufacturing machine sup-
plier in The Netherlands offers a machine with inte-
grated heat treatment, and the DMG Mori milling
center integrates an HDR powder-feed additive man-
ufacturing tool.

First steps aboard flying aircrafts

In February 2014, Airbus delivered the first printed FDM
spare part to an airline after a two-year project with a
3D redesign of a 30-year-old manual drawing of a cab-
in-attendant seat part. It’s now a pure digital product,
produced more or less on demand by Airbus itself
instead of a 10-year inventory because of the press
forming production with a 20-year-old “serial tool.”
The first few-hundred flight test bracket FDM appli-
cations had been aboard the new A350 test aircraft
beginning in 2014, and the first additively manufac-
tured titanium Bionic cabin bracket produced using
the LBM process and a new topology-optimized
design method was flown on an A350 in June 2014 FIGURE 3. An aluminum camera cover for a vertical tail plane was produced
after two years of testing (FIGURE 1). All these activities using LBM.

6 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_6 6 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

Flight safety-relevant additively manufactured hydraulic component. On The goal is to make full use of the free room for mul-
March 30, 2017, the first flight of a flight safety-relevant additively manufac- tifunctional and highly integrated “clean-sheet-de-
tured component on an A380 aircraft enabled 35% weight reduction (FIGURE 5). signs” enabled by additive manufacturing. This could
be a hydraulic unit or bracket with a three-part assem-
From first parts to clean sheet designs bly that had previously been made from 126 parts and
The first step into a new area of additive manufacturing is a 1:1 exchangeable addi- rivets. This means no costs for the roughly 120 parts,
tively manufactured part, while the next step is to rethink the complete component. which leads to 95% less assembly (and no tooling
maintenance, stock, and logistics). Such cases are
under investigation for serial use in 2019 onwards.

FIGURE 4. This titanium double-walled fuel connector that replaces a welded FIGURE 5. This flight safety-relevant additively
cast part assembly had a cost reduction of around 50% because no casting manufactured component enabled 35% weight
tools were needed. reduction on an A380 aircraft.

The 1st of its kind Additive Manufacturing

Ensure Laser Performance
and Stability
When knowing your
process is a must

BeamCheck™ measures

Focal spot size at the build plane

Laser power at the build plane
The First 3D-Printed Aircraft Airbus
debuted Thor in June 2016, •Laser power density at the build plane
a mini-plane which is the first of • Changes in spot size & power density over time
its kind to fly successfully.
Call for an on-site measurement of your lasers performance
How much does Thor weigh?

46 pounds.

1709ils_7 7 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

Additive manufacturing allows us to really rethink a product, such as copy- demonstrates capabilities of generic design
ing a giant water lily structure into a spoiler or transferring the growth of a slim methods linked with future additive manufactur-
mold into design mathematics, as demonstrated by a Bionic-Partition project ing production, leading to a 45% weight reduc-
with 3D design software company Autodesk and other partners. The project tion and therefore saving around -3 tons of fuel/
year for an A320 aircraft (FIGURE 6).

Outlook for 2025

In 2016, we started to develop a view on 2025
with the help of 10 universities and institutes,
looking at fast-track product development,
eliminating the need for tooling, production on
demand, decreased raw material needs, step
change in weight reduction, and more enabled
by additive manufacturing.
Complete industrialization must be organized
and developed for the additive manufacturing mar-
ket to continue to grow. The biggest challenges are
to understand “clean-sheet-design” future prod-
uct opportunities, and to develop all necessary
design principles and industrial software solutions.
Then, all of this must be validated, including new
requirements and acceptance from authorities. ✺

FIGURE 6. The Bionic-Partition project demonstrates capabilities of generic design PETER SANDER (peter.sander@airbus.com) is VP of Emerging
methods linked with future additive manufacturing production, saving around -3 Technologies & Concepts Germany at Airbus Operations GmbH,
tons of fuel per year for an A320 aircraft. Hamburg, Germany; www.airbus.com.

Eliminate Scanner Stitching Errors Aerotech’s Infinite Field of View (IFOV)

technology seamlessly combines servo
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capability of the scanner across the entire
travel of the servo stages, eliminating
stitching errors that can occur in a more
traditional move-expose-repeat process.
• Programming made easy – IFOV
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Galvo Scanner between scanner and servo
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• Automate IFOV configuration, as well as
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Dedicated to the

8 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_8 8 8/31/17 9:01 AM

t e c h n o l o g y r e p o r t

Industrial lasers
in China: An observer’s

n the view of industrial laser
processing system manufac-
turers in the Western world, H
China is the single largest mar- I N
ket for their products and, poten- A
tially in the near future, a significant
competitor in their home markets.
The estimated market for industrial laser material
processing equipment in China was about $3.8 billion in 2016,
showing a 12.51% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the
last five years. Growth in 2017 is expected to be in the 22% range
to an estimated $4.6 billion. Putting this into perspective, the total
global market for laser systems used for material processing was
about $12.6 billion in 2016, so the China market alone represents
one-third of all global system revenues. The hot markets for these
laser systems are in manufacturing operations for smartphones, are about 150 of these companies with annual rev-
sheet metal cutting for fabricated products, batteries for electric enues of more than $5 million.
vehicles, and display panels—the latter an application sector that These domestic suppliers have, since 2010,
vaulted micromaterials processing up by a strong 23% in 2016. exported at a 22% CAGR to an estimated $480 mil-
In 2016, China imported $640 million of industrial laser sys- lion in 2017. The bulk of these system exports have
tems, down from a high in 2014 of almost $1 billion—about a 30% been to other Asian markets in Korea, Taiwan, and
decline. This slowing of imports is expected to continue in 2017 by Vietnam, as well as markets in countries with rap-
another 18%. FIGURE 1 suggests the crossover point for laser sys- idly developing manufacturing industries such as
tems exports vs. imports that may occur in 2018. India and Malaysia.
Looking at this from another perspective, Chinese suppliers of Exports of Chinese laser material processing sys-
laser systems for material processing experienced a 16% CAGR tems to the US and Europe are now in an advanced
in revenues over the past five years. According to sources, there introductory role, as exporters to these markets

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 9

1709ils_9 9 8/31/17 9:01 AM

t e c h n o l o g y r e p o r t

grapple with safety and reliability standards. This is especially dif- cutting, and 60,000 units into systems requiring pulsed laser out-
ficult in the Western world, which has established demands for put (<1kW) for marking and microprocessing applications. Of note,
rapid service response and expedited replacement part supply. about 60% of high-power continuous-wave fiber lasers and 30% of
Chinese system suppliers are realizing that the overriding concern lower-power pulsed fiber lasers were from non-Chinese suppliers.
of buyers in the US and Europe is for equipment reliability, even Now, the kicker in the competition situation is that successful
more than system selling price. international industrial laser and systems manufacturers invest
Somewhat mitigating the service and reliability issues is the use of a significant percentage of revenues in product research and
fiber lasers as the power source in many industrial laser systems on development to gain or retain market share in this very compet-
the market. The fiber laser is an itive global market. Two exam-
energy-efficient, long-time-be- China - Import/export industrial laser systems ples include IPG Photonics,
tween-replacement, and easy- 887 911 which reinvested about 7.9% of
to-maintain device that ensures 794 sales (FY17, Q1), and TRUMPF,
the prospect of cost-effective 695 660 which reinvested about 10.5%
Import 639
operation in the manufacturing (FY15/16). The result—invest in
environment. Long-time reliabil- research & development and
ity has been a major factor in $ million 480 attendant intellectual property
boosting fiber lasers to about a 306 338 (IP), and you get positive return
third of the installed base of all 202 223 on your investment.
Export 134
industrial lasers sold. 98 This was not lost on China’s
In 2016, Chinese system man- 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 government when they drafted
ufacturers integrated 70,000 Source: Han's Laser the 13th Five-Year Plan, which
fiber lasers into the units sold. seeks to set a high 6.5% growth
Of these, 10,000 went into high- FIGURE 1. By the end of 2017, exports of Chinese industrial laser rate to improve the average per-
power (>1kW) applications such systems may show a 21.9% CAGR, while imports of equivalent son’s quality of life and for man-
as welding and sheet metal systems may show a -3.4% CAGR since 2010. ufacturers to foster innovation

1709ils_10 10 8/31/17 9:01 AM

(read this as IP) to assist their ability to compete in the interna-
tional marketplace. It also seeks to guide companies to produce
higher value-added products that are attractive in the competitive
global market. The best, no less for
The Chinese government also looked to make breakthroughs
in intelligent manufacturing to improve the quality and efficiency toughest demands - excelliSCAN
of supply and stimulate real demand to strengthen new growth
momentum, focus on manufacturing innovation and the integra-
tion of information and manufacturing technologies, boost informa-
tion technology as well as high-end equipment, and assist growth
in robots and intelligent systems [1], all related directly or indirectly
to industrial laser technology. These goals, if accomplished, are
expected to grow Chinese companies’ intellectual property, mak-
ing them competitive in the marketplace.
Key to the new Five-Year Plan is China’s Belt and Road Initiative,
which encompasses two trade routes that will increase regional
trade and encourage economic cooperation between China and
more than 65 other countries along land and sea routes from
Malaysia to Eastern Europe [2]. An investment of more than $900
billion is already committed to build infrastructure networks. China’s
leadership plans to use China’s wealth and industrial know-how
to create a new kind of globalization, dispensing with the rules of
Western-dominated institutions. The outcome is to restructure the
global economic order, bringing countries and companies more
tightly into China’s orbit [3]. This initiative may assist in reducing
barriers to China’s penetration into the European laser materials
processing market.
Even with stimuli from the government, Chinese laser system
manufacturers face some not-so-insignificant barriers to match
and exceed a nominal 5% CAGR. First, the manufacturing cost of
competitive low-power systems may boost current selling prices,
reducing the advantage they now hold. And Chinese systems mak-
ers competing against kilowatt-level cutting and welding systems
built to exacting international standards, and backed by appropriate
after-sales service, may not have the selling price advantage they
have now. Also, improved industrial laser technology (UV lasers,
ultrafast lasers, and high-power/high-beam-quality diode lasers)
by other global suppliers is entering the international markets well
ahead of Chinese companies.
However, leading Chinese manufacturers are aware of the chang-
ing market environment. With the aforementioned R&D funding
stimulus, these manufacturers could—with world-class equip-
ment—finesse their way into lucrative, now difficult-to-enter mar-
kets, meeting the Chinese government-stated goals of being suppli-
ers of high-value added laser equipment protected by IP rights. ✺

Valuable assistance in preparing this perspective was provided by
Dr. Qitao Lue (Han’s Laser), Dr. Bo Gu (BOS Photonics), and Allen
Nogee (Laser Markets Research).

1. See www.news.cn/english.
2. C. Holton, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative presents serious challenges and opportunities for
photonics companies,” Laser Focus World online (Mar. 2, 2017); https://goo.gl/bxqJiZ.
3. J. Perlez and Y. Huang, “Behind China’s $1 trillion plan to shake up the economic order,” New
York Times (May 13, 2017); https://goo.gl/EJzF86.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 11

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t e c h n o l o g y r e p o r t

Laser bonding: A new c

technology for high currents



ower electronics constantly pres-
ent packaging technologies with
new challenges to handle ever-
larger currents. At the semiconduc-
tor level, the most important inter-
connection technology by far is wire
bonding with aluminum-heavy wires
in diameters up to 500µm, welded directly onto a bond pad of
the semiconductor chip by an ultrasonic friction welding pro-
cess. These wire bonds have a fuse current of up to 35A for
a wire measuring 20mm in average length. For considerably
higher currents found in today’s power modules, several wires
are bonded in parallel on the chip.
Wire bonding features enjoy major advantages: the bonds are FIGURE 1. The battery cells wired together by a
highly reliable and have long lives; the process is very flexible LaserBonder contains variety of interconnection technol-
because distances and positions of the bonds can be freely pro- a wire-bonder base ogies. At present, the dominating
grammed and adapted; and it is a very cost-efficient process. (left) and a standard battery type is the 18650 lithium-ion
However, two drawbacks to wire bonding are that the bond- fiber laser with a (Li-ion) consumer battery, which is
ing surfaces must be very clean, and the bond pads on chips control unit (right). especially well suited for wire bond-
or substrates must be held rigidly and stably. The thicker the ing with heavy aluminum wire. Here,
bonding wire, the more ultrasonic energy must be employed, the advantages of the continuous bulk joint regarding life-
making it progressively more difficult to clamp the parts rig- time and stability combine with excellent ease of automati-
idly. The bond forces also must increase with thicker wires. zation. This is the reason why wire bonding is by far the lead-
Taken together, these factors set a practical limit to about ing interconnection process for battery cells, for example, at
500µm-diameter wire, as thicker wires pose a danger to sen- Tesla Motors.
sitive chip surfaces. Even here, ultrasonic wire bonding is running into limitations
Nonetheless, larger connector cross-sections have been of manageable currents. 18650 Li-ion-type consumer battery
processed for a few years now using ultrasonic wire bonding. cells are operated with cells below about 20A, allowing a sin-
These are usually rectangular ribbons measuring 2mm wide gle wire to connect a cell to, for instance, a busbar. To connect
and 0.2mm thick, replacing three 500µm-diameter wires. The several cells directly with a bond wire, however, the maximum
main area of application is automotive electronics, especially current carrying capability is soon reached. Moreover, newer
in e-vehicles. cells at the same approximate size are designed for currents
up to 45A and would require several wires in parallel.
Wire bonding The alternative, using the aluminum ribbon mentioned ear-
A further application has developed in the field of e-mobility lier, is not really feasible: on the one hand, these ribbons are
for storage batteries. Depending on their design, they contain still quite expensive, and on the other it is difficult to clamp

12 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_12 12 8/31/17 9:01 AM

the cells well enough to sustain the higher
ultrasonic energy input.

Laser welding
Laser welding is an alternative. In sev-
eral regards, it is almost a perfect com-
plement to wire bonding, as it has no
trouble with lower-quality surfaces and
it does not need substantial forces to
clamp the parts during the process.
Also, the connector elements can have FIGURE 2. The LaserBonder’s bonding
large cross-sections to conduct very head with its laser scanner. ends up in a galvanometer scanner that
large currents. Finally, the requirements contains optics generating a very sharp
on the bulk properties of the connectors focus of about 35µm in diameter. The
are lower, leading to lower material cost. optics move the focused laser beam on the bond ribbon, just
As with wire bonding, there are also a few disadvantages— in front of the bond tool.
notably the more difficult automatization compared to wire This bond tool is a modified type of bond wedge from ultra-
bonding. In wire bonding, the connector (wire or ribbon) is sonic bonding. Its main purpose is to hold down the bond rib-
reeled from a spool in a virtually endless manner; is handled bon properly on the contact pad. The rest of the bond head is
solely by the bonder; can be attached in any position and direc- unchanged from the ultrasonic bonder, including the wire or
tion (also with tolerance compensation by pattern recognition ribbon guide and the cutting unit, which indents the ribbon after
systems); and can be cut at any length as needed. the second weld step prior to tearing it off (FIGURE 2).
Laser welding is more complex—a pre-fabricated connect-
ing element must be positioned on the contact points and held Aluminum and copper connectors
there for welding. Therefore, the connector must be handled Ribbon-shaped connectors are preferred over wires for laser
as a separate part and needs to be precisely positioned before bonding. Thanks to their rectangular cross-section, they feature
the laser beam can start working. Furthermore, the connec- a constant profile and, therefore, constant thickness of metal.
tor must be pre-fabricated to the right dimensions, usually as Aluminum is easily processed, as is copper. The latter is
a punched part. Tolerances and height variations in the con- preferred on battery cells because of its higher conductivity.
tact positions cause extra work during process automation. The bonder setup used is still largely restricted to the ribbon
dimensions also used in the ultrasonic bonder—approximately
Laser bonding 2mm wide and up to 0.3mm thick. Larger ribbons don’t pres-
Combining laser welding and wire bonding offers the best of ent a challenge for laser welding, but they do require a differ-
both worlds, and it has now been accomplished within a joint ent layout for feeding and cutting, both of which are under
research project supported by the German Federal Ministry development now.
for Education and Research (BMBF) called RoBE (Robustness In general, copper is considered much harder to process
for bonds in e-vehicles). Besides F&K Delvotec Bondtechnik by laser welding than aluminum because at 1µm wave-
(Munich, Germany) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser length, it has poor absorption. One alternative is a green
Technology (ILT; Aachen, Germany), the consortium included laser, which has much better absorption, but a much higher
Audi, Continental, Infineon, and the Fraunhofer Institute for investment cost.
Reliability and Microintegration (IZM; Berlin, Germany). At Fraunhofer ILT, a technology was used that takes advan-
Developed within the RoBE project is the LaserBonder sys- tage of a very small focus spot. The extremely high energy
tem, which consists of two main components: a standard wire density at this local spot permits deep-penetration welding
bonder base from F&K Delvotec and a near-infrared fiber laser instead of heat conduction welding, generating very deep
with 1kW power in a separate unit (FIGURE 1). The laser beam and steep welding zones by internal multiple reflections. It
is brought into the bond head through an optical fiber, and is also termed keyhole welding because of this behavior.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 13

1709ils_13 13 8/31/17 9:01 AM

t e c h n o l o g y r e p o r t

The side effect of a small connection This is an aspect where laser bonding is needed and the bond ribbon is simply
area would normally be a narrow weld- is highly advantageous, as it can make left out. The main advantage of the equip-
ing seam and, therefore, an undesirably the connection on top of the rolled rim of ment is that it can push the connector ele-
high transition resistance. However, this the cell, right next to the plus pole. Having ment down to the contact block, ensuring
is easily avoided by “wobbling” the laser both connections on the top side of the cell a zero welding gap and making the clamp-
beam, superimposed on the linear motion leaves the entire remainder of the cell free ing setup much simpler.
across the ribbon. Because of the programmable laser
An additional beam pattern, a welding interface of any
advantage is that shape within a window about 10mm in
the heat emerging diameter can be formed, allowing large
from the laser spot operating currents. The downward push
is not just dissipated force and required distance can be con-
on both sides of the trolled and monitored, allowing additional
welding seam, but process and parts control. For some
is used efficiently to application areas, it may also be attrac-
melt the area inside tive to have equipment that is capable
the circular move- of both processes with extremely sim-
ment ( FIGURE 3). FIGURE 3. A schematic of the deep-penetration welding process. ple changeover.
The result is a weld
seam in which welding depth and seam of connecting leads, enabling simpler man- Other applications
width can be controlled independently, ufacturing because there is no need to flip There are several further potential appli-
and that delivers consistently shallow the battery assembly, and far more space cations beginning to take shape. The
welding depths into the lower contact pad. available for thermal management of the lower demands of laser bonding regard-
cell to help increase cell lifetime. ing surface quality make it possible
High current capacity/ to bond aluminum ribbons directly to
low weld penetration Different approach for
FIGURES 4 and 5 demonstrate how the larger currents
mechanical strength of the weld seam and Larger prismatic battery cells where much a)
its width can be controlled by the advance larger currents are employed and where
speed and oscillation amplitude of the there are dedicated connector blocks on
laser beam. Under optimized conditions, the battery cell require even larger ribbons.
they can be more than doubled without First steps are under development for rib-
increasing the process time and, there- bons up to 10mm wide and 1mm thick
fore, the energy input. This is also attractive within the framework of FlexJoin, a joint
because the metallurgical properties of the research project funded by the Federal
welding zone depend strongly on the ther- Ministry of Economy and Energy (BMWi). b)
mal load to which it is exposed. An alternative to this is using pre-
Laser bonding allows creating a con- punched connector elements as in con-
necting interface of practically any size ventional laser welding. However, in the
(and correspondingly high current-car- LaserBonder, only a different bond tool
rying capacity) while keeping the weld
penetration depth low. This approach is
Tensile strength (N)
extremely attractive for battery cells. In
small 18650 Li-ion battery cells, the plus 700
P: 400W c)
pole is a hat-shaped, punched sheet 600 df: 30µm
Material: CuFe2P (0.2/0.4mm)
metal disk that is contacted in the cen- 500
ter by a copper ribbon without large 400 50mm/s
forces (FIGURE 6).
The second bond to the minus pole, the 100mm/s
battery can, is even more advantageous.
The container is made of thin sheet metal 100
measuring 250 to 300µm, which carries 0
0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5
considerable risk of excessive heat input Amplitude (mm) FIGURE 5. Wide welding seams at
if it is penetrated by the welding step. Any low welding penetration depth are
uncontrolled heat input would risk degrad- FIGURE 4. Seam strength and oscillation shown with no oscillation (a), at 0.2mm
ing the battery lifetime. amplitude are compared. amplitude (b), and at 0.3mm amplitude (c).

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1709ils_14 14 8/31/17 2:21 PM

t e c h n o l o g y r e p o r t

die-cast aluminum housings, without circuit boards (PCBs) and the outer shell Long-term objective
prior surface preparation. This is perfect of many automotive aggregates such as The long-term goal of laser bonding, how-
for ground connections between printed starters or generators, as these should be ever, is bonding directly on semiconduc-
continuous bulk connections without any tors—for example, copper ribbons for high
mechanical or corrosion vulnerabilities for currents on high-temperature wide-band-
a very long lifetime. gap semiconductors such as silicon car-
Those are difficult and expensive to bide. The welding depth and thermal energy
accomplish at present because bolting or input are still too high, creating a high risk of
crimping typically suffer from slow corro- damaging the semiconductor, even where
sion or oxidation. Also, ultrasonic bond- thick copper buffer layers are provided.
ing requires local surface preparation by A novel approach called laser impulse
milling, which generates conductive alu- metal bonding (LIMBO) is under develop-
minum dust and requires expensive dust ment at Fraunhofer ILT, which is designed
removal. Relatively thin (1500 × 100µm) to bond across a defined small gap
aluminum ribbons are perfectly sufficient between the two welding partners. This
for the small grounding currents required, approach decreases the amount of heat
and they can be laser-bonded easily on impinging on the semiconductor surface
the untreated cast aluminum surface. The to a fraction of the regular technology, and
second bond is made directly on a cop- shows great promise for rapid progress in
per landing area on the PCB. If the copper the next few years. ✺
layer on the PCB is very thin, it can easily
be reinforced by soldering an extra copper BENJAMIN MEHLMANN (benjamin.mehlmann@de.fk-
delvotec.com) oversees laser bonding applications
pad to this spot during the standard sur-
and Dr. JOSEF SEDLMAIR handles technical mar-
FIGURE 6. An 18650 consumer battery face-mount device placing process, caus- keting, both at F&K Delvotec Bondtechnik, Ottobrunn,
cell with a laser bond is shown. ing very little extra cost. Germany; www.fkdelvotec.com.

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• Wide selection of 100 W to 400 W pulsed and
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www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 15

1709ils_15 15 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

Laser machine enables coil joining in

continuous strip
processing lines





JENS ARTEL, and CAESAR SASSE laser with an 8kW carbon
dioxide laser source is
the basis for a new order

T he global steel market is under constant pressure. Cost-

reduction initiatives such as energy conservation, mini-
mizing personnel, and spare-parts reduction come along
with the need to increase the availability of equipment. Staying
competitive comes with the necessity to offer a broad product
with a 10kW fiber laser
to be integrated into
SSAB’s new entry section,
which will provide high
efficiency and availability
on the worldwide impact of dig-
itization with a newly developed
welding machine.
The welding machine imple-
ments several digital solutions to
portfolio, which focuses on modern steel grades. as well as a safe, fast, and operate in a simple manner. Its
Old flash butt welding machines or conventional laser weld- fully automated process, features allow for reduced operat-
ing machines are not able to weld modern steel grades in a reli- even for difficult-to-weld ing and maintenance staff to per-
able manner, as their high-alloying contents have an influence on materials. form preventive maintenance with
the weldability of the materials. Furthermore, welding machines in long-time archives that record all
existing lines need to be replaced as spare parts and in-house expertise avail- relevant data. The machine’s documentation is
ability dwindle. digitally available and interlinked.
In previous decades, more people were involved in operating and maintain- Recently, SMS group received another order
ing the equipment—but now, cost-control measures are reducing the num- for its latest-generation X-Pro laser welder,
ber of involved personnel. Therefore, maintenance-friendly machines with as SSAB (Hämeenlinna, Finland) decided to
high availabilities that operate automatically and adaptively with desired pro- revamp its pickling line to include a fiber laser
duction results are required. SMS group reacted to this process change and welding machine (FIGURE 1). The company is

16 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_16 16 8/31/17 9:01 AM

convinced on its pickling line’s ability to weld These grades tend to create extreme hardness increases in the weld seam area.
high-strength materials within a short cycle time. Induction pre- and post-heat treatment, or even additional buffering wire during
Furthermore, its automatically controlled, reliable laser beam welding, are mandatory for these high-tech steel grades to improve
process and easy maintenance concept are ben- the ductility of the weld to allow successful production without any weld seam
eficial features. breakages during a line run.
Another major requirement of the machine is a low cycle time. Since the lines are
Requirements producing continuously, the needed stops for welding must be as short as possible.
The welding machine is not only a crucial techno-
logical piece of equipment in every strip process- Welding process
ing line, but also an entry cycle time factor and one The process starts with tail-out threading of exiting coil and head-in threading of
key component for utilized and maximized pro- entering coil with two pinch roll units, which position both ends of the coils to be
duction. If coils are not joined properly, the whole laser beam-welded into the welding machine. Strip centering devices located at the
process will stop: every strip entry and exit side center-align
break or machine stoppage has both strip ends. During strip
the potential to affect upstream centering, the required welding
and downstream operations, parameters are calculated in the
resulting in significant financial welder’s programmable logic
implications. controller based on cast analy-
The weld seam is only utilized sis and strip thickness coming
for a few minutes—at the very from level 2 data. The strip thick-
end of the line, it will often be 1mm m ness is verified during clamping
cut out, but weld seam require- of both strip ends.
ments and a reliable welding A double cross-cut shear
process are very high. The entire is used to cut both strip ends
process is fully automated and simultaneously to prepare the
the sequences to join both strip strip ends for welding. The cut
ends successfully are always scrap drops through the weld-
FIGURE 2. A metallographic cross-section of a laser-welded seam
the same. What changes is the er’s shear onto a scrap dis-
(martensitic steel with tensile strength of 1200MPa) from a notch
material to be welded regard- charge system, which is com-
sample after rolling; the weld seam was rolled full force with no
ing steel quality, strip thickness, bined with the notcher scrap on
mill relief during weld seam transit through 6 mill stands.
strip width, and thickness jump a conveying belt. Test welds or
from one coil to the next. notch samples can be conveyed
The welding process takes place every 3 to 5 to the operator side for inspection. In conjunction with the cutting process, a hole
min. In a pickling line/tandem cold mill, the weld for the weld seam detection can be punched (FIGURE 2).
seam is bent numerous times with high tension The prepared strip ends are aligned relative to each other in terms of width and
(up to 65 tons), travels more than 1000m through thickness to achieve the desired welding joint geometry. Before the strip ends are
the line at high speed (up to 1200m/min), and welded together, the position and geometry of the welding joint are measured by a
eventually gets rolled and significantly reduced in camera. The position-controlled welding head guarantees the seam to be exactly
thickness with high forces in five mill stands (up positioned on the joint. If there are any deviations in position or geometry because
to 1800 tons). of wear or wrong alignment of machine components, the welding traversing unit
The rule, and not the exception, in a current steel adapts to the new conditions and automatically controls the welding head into the
plant is the production of modern high-strength correct position. In this way, the weld seam is always positioned exactly on the
grades with high contents of alloying elements. joint, which prevents the weld seam from breaking. Furthermore, repairs can be

Positioning Cutting Aligning Welding Notching

FIGURE 3. A principle representation of the welding process, which incorporates five main steps.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 17

1709ils_17 17 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

postponed until the next scheduled main- seam, as well as the power, are variable. Weld seam quality assurance. An inte-
tenance shutdown, as certain misalign- This means that the treatment time and grated, automated weld-seam quality
ment can be compensated by the welding temperature are adjusted flexibly in the assurance system with two cameras eval-
traversing unit. most suitable way for each seam. uates the entire process. The first camera
In case of hard-to-weld material, the The highly efficient deep heat treat- positions the welding head on the middle
weld seam is subjected to inductive heat ment with medium-frequency induction of the joint, and the second camera checks
treatment (pre- and post-treatment) to allows thorough heating of the material and rates the quality of the welded seam. If
obtain a homogeneous hardness profile in the shortest possible time, thus pre- everything passes inspection, the system
across the weld seam. venting a hardness increase on the weld automatically approves (FIGURE 6).
Upon completion of the welding pro- seam and the consequent risk of strip Calculation of welding parameters. The
cess, the edges are removed with a side breakage (FIGURE 5). The special inductor welder is adjusted by automatic adaptation
notcher to ensure reliable strip travel and design considerably reduces the hold- of the welding parameters. With this sys-
to allow the edge trimming shear down- ing time compared to conventional sys- tem, new material pairings can be welded
stream in the line to move into the contin- tems. This allows welding of hard-to-weld without extensive testing. It uses level 2
uous strip. The material cut-offs can also materials like martensitic or high-carbon/ data for cast analysis and thickness to cal-
be used for weld seam testing. silicon grades. culate carbon equivalents, and features a
database with suitable welding parameters.
Position 1 Position 2 Thanks to automatic calculation of the
welding parameters for every individual
material combination, even strip combi-
nations of unknown steel grades will be
welded. The correct welding parameters
for the combination to be welded are
determined immediately and reliably with-
out having to spend time on test welds
and lengthy searching in databases. All
it takes for the calculation are the geo-
Pre-heating Change of post-heating
start point possible metric strip data and analysis of the steel
melt of the two steel strips. These data are
usually stored in the production computer
and can be transferred to the computer
of the welding machine. Therefore, test
welds on the production plant or prob-
Time lems when welding new material combi-
nations now are a thing of the past.
FIGURE 4. The system for pre- and post-heating of the weld seam with freely selectable Low cycle time. Another desired fea-
start points and temperatures. ture of the machine is its <60s cycle time,

Welding machine capabilities

The main goal when developing the weld-
ing machine was a compact design with
simple requirements to build a foundation
for revamps and to replace old flash butt
welding machines (FIGURE 3). The follow- Without heat With heat
ing paragraphs describe the machine’s treatment treatment
capabilities. HV 0.5 HV 0.5
Heat treatment of the weld seam. One 600 600
major advantage of the machine is its 500 500
inductive pre- and post-heat-treatment 400 400
300 300
of the weld seam (FIGURE 4). The machine
200 200
allows an individual annealing process 100 GW1 WEZ1 SG WEZ2 GW2 100 GW1 WEZ1 SG WEZ2 GW2
of the hardened weld seam. Since every 0 0
1 6 11 16 21 1 6 11 16 21
material combination is different and the Distance (mm) Distance (mm)
range of possible material combinations
has significantly increased, the distances FIGURE 5. A reduced hardness profile by post-heating (right) improves ductility of a
between the inductive heaters and the welded seam.

18 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_18 18 8/31/17 9:01 AM

Process camera


Process emission

Gap camera for laser Weld seam

head positioning evaluation camera

FIGURE 6. The welding machine’s quality assurance system enables automatic weld

thanks to its simplified design for the pro- This extreme flexibility of the welding
cess. Most machine movements are per- machine guarantees that, for example,
formed linearly and are position-controlled, hybrid laser beam welding for joining stain- Industrial Laser Solutions is the
as encoders for all movements allow for less steel strips can be used without hav- leading media resource for laser
safe and fast positioning of the machine. ing to carry out major revamps.
materials processing and
The exchanging time for the machine’s
top and bottom knife cassettes in the shear Solid-state laser
manufacturing professionals.
is extremely short—they can be changed In former projects, SMS group installed Industrial Laser Solutions
in <20 min. This is a result of a smart multikilowatt CO2 lasers—either 12kW magazine, email newsletters
machine design, with no additional equip- (TRUMPF) or 8kW (Rofin-Sinar). For this and website deliver unique,
ment needed inside the machine to allow latest project, the company will install a unbiased, and in-depth technical
this quick-change procedure. solid-state laser for the first time—a 10kW
information about the
Selectable welding source. Thanks to fiber laser (IPG Photonics). When com-
the modular design of the welding machine pared to a conventional CO2 laser, the laser
innovations and challenges
and the consequent separation between beam is generated in a resonator with a specific to the industry.
weld seam preparation and the welding laser-active fiber. Thanks to its high wall-
process itself, the welding source can be plug efficiency and almost no power con- Request your
easily replaced. This allows use of a con-
ventional carbon dioxide (CO2) laser source
sumption in stand-by mode, operating
costs will decrease up to 90%.
or a solid-state laser source. With a solid-state laser, it is possible to subscription today!
The weld seam preparation with align- save or even avoid process gas (for exam-
ment, fine cutting, and joining of the ple, helium), and reduce the maintenance
two strip ends is performed by separate effort. An excellent feature of the system
machine modules. Subsequently, the weld- is its simple modular structure, which is
ing source is moved with a welding travers- almost maintenance-free. What’s more,
ing unit along the joint between the two solid-state lasers come with a compact
strip ends. In doing so, the position and design and small footprint with a flexible
traversing speed of the welding source process laser fiber, enabling plant con-
can be adjusted individually. This fulfills cepts to be kept simple.
an important condition for enabling other The solid-state laser process is rougher
welding sources to be used in the future. and more turbulent in comparison to a con-
Furthermore, various welding procedures ventional CO2 laser source with process
can be combined. stability, especially on thicker grades above

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 19

1709ils_19 19 8/31/17 9:01 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

3mm. The appearance of spatter due to a differ-

ent plasma vapor plume is well known and often
described in various literature references. Certain
measures were implemented to avoid these spat-
ter appearances on gauges thicker than 3mm to
allow the solid-state application is suitable for the
strip processing process.

The X-Pro laser welder for a new pickling line/tan-
dem mill at Big River Steel (Osceola, AR) welds
almost 1.5 million tons of steel strips per year
(FIGURE 7). Commissioning took place in 2016.
After the welding process, the material, includ-
ing the welded joints, will not only be pickled,
but also rolled in a five-stand, four-high tandem
mill. This means the 1.4- to 5.0mm-thick strip will
be reduced to a final gauge between 0.27 and FIGURE 7. The X-Pro laser welder is integrated in the new pickling line/
1.4mm. Even steels with high silicon will be pro- tandem cold mill at Big River Steel.
duced on this line and, therefore, welded.
SSAB Europe has awarded SMS group an
order covering the modernization of a continuous pickling line With the installation of an X-Pro fiber laser welder and a high-per-
entry section in its Hämeenlinna, Finland plant. This moderniza- formance tension leveler, it will be possible to produce modern,
tion will significantly increase the line’s availability and its output, high-strength steel grades with high alloy contents. The conversion,
as well as the degree of automation and safety. including modification of the complete electrical and automation
equipment, will be accomplished in two phases, and is scheduled to
be completed by the end of 2018. With the new equipment, the line
will be able to process materials with yield points of up to 900MPa.
Higher capacity at lower operating costs will be a further benefit.
An essential element of the modernization is the X-Pro laser
welder with solid-state laser. In 2015, SSAB had sent diffi-
cult-to-weld, high-alloy plates from its own production to SMS
group, which have been welded with the machine using a fiber
laser source.
The line is designed for strips with thicknesses between 1.5 and
6.5mm and widths from 650 to 1650mm. In the processing sec-
tion, the strips will be pickled in the turbulence pickling tanks at a
speed up to 180m/min, whereas the maximum strip speed attain-
able in the entry section will be 400m/min.
Strip processing lines are facing several challenges when it
comes to flexible, economical, and safe welding of modern steel
grades. The X-Pro laser welder, which is easy to maintain and can
easily be integrated in existing lines, is able to produce hard-to-
weld strip materials.
The welding machine offers several beneficial features, includ-
ing patented inductive heat treatment, automatic parameter calcu-
lation, a quality assurance system, low cycle time, and exchange-
able laser sources. One special new feature is the integration of a
modern solid-state welder, which decreases operational costs. ✺

X-Pro is a registered trademark of SMS group.

CHRISTIAN DORNSCHEIDT (christian.dornscheidt@sms-group.com), JENS ARTEL,

and CAESAR SASSE are all with SMS group, Dūsseldorf, Germany; www.sms-

20 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_20 20 8/31/17 9:02 AM

u s e r p r o f i l e

Laser machine provides

speed, flexibility,
and higher



& A Metal Fab (Clackamas, OR) has been a suc-
cess story in the Pacific Northwest for decades.
According to industry observers, the company
has a winning business philosophy that is very FIGURE 1. Dan Aronson, president of P & A
straightforward: To provide everything a customer Metal Fab, and his research team purchased the
needs, charge a fair price, and deliver the job on Prima Power LPe6f laser/punch combination
time...every time. This dedication to service and machine that was installed in August 2016.
quality helps to explain the deep loyalty among customers and employees,
many of whom have worked for the company for over 20 years.
Phil Aronson, father of company president Dan Aronson, started P&A four employees to research the sheet metal fabri-
Metal Fab in 1978 out of a two-car garage a few blocks from its present loca- cation market to find a replacement. After talking
tion in Clackamas. “By 1991, the company grew into a fair-sized business,” to several machine builders, industry experts,
Dan Aronson explains. However, by that time, Phil Aronson was approach- and other fabricators, P & A Metal Fab pur-
ing retirement and later that year, he sold the company to the Kyoshin Giken chased a Prima Power LPe6f laser/punch com-
Company (Tokyo, Japan). His son Dan stayed on in senior management bination machine, which was installed in August
and later in 2007, he and another Japanese entity, Tsuguaki Takahashi, pur- 2016 (FIGURE 1).
chased the company and formed a new trans-Pacific partnership that offers
the partners greater reach and new opportunities. Combination machine
Today, P & A Metal Fab has evolved into a contract manufacturing pow- capabilities and features
erhouse with 90 employees, working in three facilities with over 75,000 The machine combines servo-electric punch-
sq. ft. of space. The company has also acquired an arsenal of laser cut- ing and fiber laser technology in a manufactur-
ting, fabricating, tube processing, welding, and powder coating to service ing solution that provides flexibility, speed, accu-
its diverse customer base, including air handling equipment and industrial racy, and productivity to fabricate challenging
and consumer products such as computer furniture, all-terrain vehicles, products (FIGURE 2).
and fitness equipment. The inherent benefit of integrated punching
Staying up to date with leading manufacturing technology has also been and laser cutting is high versatility. The turret
a long-term company goal. When the company decided to replace an older punch press can be used where it is easier or
model laser punch combination machine, Aronson put together a team of faster, and the laser where it is most flexible.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 21

1709ils_21 21 8/31/17 9:02 AM

u s e r p r o f i l e

The following paragraphs describe the machine’s fea-

tures and capabilities:
High-performance punching. The machine’s premium
series turret punch press has properties such as auto-
matic tool length measurement, optimization of stroke
length, and easy adjustment of the punching stroke.
These combine with others, adding up to faster setups
and more ease of operation. The punching speed, tool
rotation, and tool change time are improved. The punch-
ing stroke is numerically controlled, providing high-per-
formance punching and excellent forming capabilities.
“The speed of the servo-electric punching is so
much faster,” Aronson says. “There is also less main-
tenance than the older hydraulic model. In addition,
the servo-electric operation has lowered our power
consumption by approximately one third. The forming
station has also been a really good tool for us in that
FIGURE 2. The laser/punch combination machine
combines servo-electric punching and fiber laser
technology to fabricate challenging products.

Depending on the manufacturing task at hand, a

user can choose the most productive manufacturing
method. This amounts to flexibility for fulfilling vary-
ing requirements, cost efficiency, and competitive-
ness. The machine’s fiber laser source has low-energy
consumption and eliminates the need for laser gases.
The company required a machine that needs to
be flexible and extremely fast for a quick response
to production orders, often for very small quanti-
ties. To that end, the LPe6f laser/punch combination
machine offers versatility and flexibility, combining
multiple operations in one machine. This lean man-
ufacturing style reduces cost per part, as parts will
be made fast, easily, and accurately by one operator
using only one operating and programming system.
FIGURE 4. Combo FMS Double-Sided Storage
automates the material flow, and can also serve as
intermediate storage for ready components and as a

machine. It allows us to perform a great deal of upform-

ing, extruding, and tapping, eliminating costly second-
ary operations.”
Fiber laser cutting. The laser used in the system is a
4kW high-brilliance fiber laser (FIGURE 3). Cutting speed
increases in proportion to power and a wide range of
material can be cut, such as copper or brass. A signif-
icant reduction in operating cost is achieved because
the laser has no maintenance requirements, no laser
gas is needed, and energy consumption is far smaller
when compared to other solutions.
Cutting with nitrogen. “Our largest customer is in
the fitness equipment industry and mandates that if we
FIGURE 3. The laser used in the laser/punch combination machine is a 4kW cut with CO2, all traces of the laser oxide edge must be
high-brilliance fiber laser; cutting speed increases in proportion to power. either mechanically or chemically removed,” Aronson

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1709ils_22 22 8/31/17 9:02 AM

FIGURE 5. The portal-type LSR loading and stacking robot was
selected for integration with the laser/punch combination machine,
We have
enabling automated parts loading, picking, and stacking.
explains. “In order to avoid this costly secondary step, we switched
to nitrogen and no longer have to be concerned with the laser oxide
edge. To minimize the cost, we installed a nitrogen generator that
Super Powers
has an 18-month payback.”
Double-sided storage. A flexible material system with compact
storage is a key module in automating the material flow (FIGURE 4).
It makes different materials available at the working point quickly
and practically, and can also serve as intermediate storage for ready
components and as a buffer.
This combo storage system allows processing of compo-
nents from a variety of materials, which can be changed, as pro-
grammed, automatically. The sheets are automatically transferred
into machines and cells of the system. “The Combo FMS Double-
Sided Storage provides us with 17 cassettes,” Aronson explains.
“We have 12 cassettes for raw material and five for parts.”
Loading and stacking robot. P & A Metal Fab chose the por-
tal-type LSR loading and stacking robot to be integrated with its HP & Super HP Detectors
combination machine (FIGURE 5). The LSR provides a reliable, fully
automatic process, from loading to picking of parts and stacking Up to 100 kW
them. Skeletons are unloaded with the unloading device. The oper-
ator is free for other tasks while machine productivity and utilization We have a complete line of
increases dramatically. High Power Detectors for
measuring multi-kW lasers.
Increased productivity We offer regular detectors,
available off the shelf, with
“We have a project for a customer in the gaming industry, where
we run four sets of parts on a sheet,” Aronson concludes. “On our models up to 30 kW and LEARN
old punch/laser, the process took 45 minutes and the end product custom-made detectors
up to 100 kW, designed for
was non-sorted, micro-joint parts. On the Prima Power machine, the
process takes 15 minutes...and the parts are sorted. I don’t need to your needs. at
have an employee standing there sorting 100 sheets of parts that Square, round or even gentec-eo.com/
will take him a day or two to complete. We believe that we made the rectangular apertures are
possible and sky’s the limit SUPER_HP
right decision in purchasing the LPe6f. This is the right tool for us.
We are getting a great benefit from having the parts being sorted— in terms of maximum power!
that really reduces our secondary sorting labor.” ✺

ROBERT J. KOLCZ (bob.kolcz@primapower.com) is director of marketing and corporate

communication for Prima Power North America, Arlington Heights, IL;

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1709ils_23 23 8/31/17 9:02 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

Laser cleaning and p

approach the mainstream




ntil recently, laser cleaning has
been limited in application,
yet videos of handheld laser
cleaning systems generate
millions of hits on the Internet.
Therefore, laser cleaning is FIGURE 1. An
advancing and companies can range in power from 20 up to 1000W. example of rust
such as Blueacre Technology (SIDEBAR) are now implement- Laser cleaning systems with powers of removal from a steel
ing similar principles used in medical device and semi- 4kW are in development and will be on component using
conductor processing, where the laser process is supple- the market soon. Low-power laser clean- laser cleaning.
mented with ancillary processes to increase process yield ers tend to be portable and suitable for
and reduce overall production costs. handheld usage, whereas the higher-power laser cleaners are
integrated into 24/7 production environments with a high degree
Laser cleaning of automation (FIGURE 2).
At its most basic, laser cleaning is a process a) Remanufacturing is the process of returning a product
in which optical radiation is directed to a part to at least its original performance with a warranty that
to remove unwanted material from the surface. is equivalent to or better than that of the newly manufac-
The surface contamination tends to be rust on tured product. A recent study published by the EU shows
steel, oxide layers on aluminum prior to weld- a market of €30 billion in Europe, employing 130,000
ing, and coatings such as paint. people across many sectors, including aerospace, rail,
As shown in FIGURE 1, laser cleaning is very and automotive.
efficient at surface layer removal. Lasers
used for cleaning have high power and high b)
beam quality (M2) values, resulting in larger
spot diameters and a deep depth of focus.
Therefore, lasers can clean parts with mul-
tiple surfaces, each of which may be at a
significantly different
focal depth. FIGURE 2. Low-
Depending on the part power (a) and
to be cleaned and the high-power (b)
material to be removed, laser cleaning
laser cleaning systems systems.

24 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_24 24 8/31/17 9:02 AM

Laser cleaning is becoming a key or four passes, a cleaning plateau has
tool in this sector because of its abil- Blueacre Technology, located in been reached (FIGURE 4).
ity to work with multiple materials and Dundalk, Louth, Ireland and estab- Although laser cleaning is highly effi-
on different platforms. As an example, lished in 2005, develops and sells cient at material removal, it is not a
FIGURE 3 shows a brake pad that has laser equipment to a range of indus- restorative process and cannot repair
been partially laser-cleaned, allowing defects that are on or close to the sub-
tries, from automotive to medical
it to be re-dressed and sold. strate surface. However, the removal of
devices. With both ISO 9001 and
bulk surface material allows for inspec-
ISO 13485 accreditation, the com-
Integrated machine vision tion of the components post-clean. This
pany works in areas including laser
Using traditional cleaning methods is particularly important for component
such as media blasting or chemical micromachining and ablation and critical industries such as nuclear and
cleaning, it is difficult—if not impos- macro technologies such as laser aerospace, where small defects can
sible—to monitor the process in real cleaning and laser polishing. For have catastrophic implications.
time. Blasting media and subsequent more information, please visit www. Because there is no need for a sec-
dust will obscure the parts and coat blueacretechnology.com. ondary process to remove cleaning
optics, whereas chemical cleaning is media, the inspection can occur either
an intrinsically corrosive environment. It during cleaning or immediately after.
is also true that these processes may Pre-developed inspection algo-
cause more damage rithms are used to detect
to the substrate. features that are known
With laser clean- to lead to device failure
ing, it is possible to and flag these for subse-
integrate machine quent re-work.
vision into the equip-
ment and, with suitable optical Laser polishing
filtering, inspect the parts as they A process that is widely coming to the
are being cleaned. This makes it is FIGURE 3. An forefront is laser polishing of surfaces to
possible to inspect the parts in-line to determine if automotive brake remove surface scratches and increase the life-
they are fully cleaned or if additional cleaning passes pad that has been time of the component. Laser polishing heats
are required. A single pass is sometimes not enough partially laser- the material until it locally melts, which allows it
to remove the containment material, but with three cleaned for resale. to flow and smooth out the surface. Like laser

Not cleaned First pass Second pass Third pass Fourth pass

FIGURE 4. Examples of carbon steel laser-cleaned with 250W power, a 10kHz pulse rate, and Vgalvo = 2000mm/s.

www.industrial-lasers.com SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 Industrial Laser Solutions 25

1709ils_25 25 8/31/17 9:02 AM

a p p l i c a t i o n r e p o r t

remaining defects in
this stainless-steel
sheet laser-engraved
with the CE symbol
are easier to see after
laser polishing.

cleaning, laser polish-

ing has several intrin-
sic benefits: it can be
automated for both
2D and 3D surfaces, it is a noncontact force-free process, and
there is no contamination of the part with abrasives or chemicals.
Laser polishing is therefore ideally suited to restorative work on
surfaces and components that are failure-critical. The interesting
point with laser polishing is that it does not require high-power
lasers to produce results, and even standard 20–30W laser mark-
ing systems can be used to polish most metallic components. Many
studies have found that power levels in the 50–100W range are suit-
able for laser polishing with high repetition rates and scan speeds.
For pulsed laser usage, the melted layer is approximately 100nm
deep, whereas a continuous-wave (CW) laser can achieve a melted
FIGURE 5. An example of a laser-cleaned part that has been zone of 100µm. FIGURE 5 shows an image of a laser-cleaned part
partially polished with a 1mJ pulse at 30kHz. that has been partially polished with a 1mJ pulse at 30kHz. The
unpolished surface is matte in appearance, whereas the polished
surface is smooth and highly reflective.
As laser polishing can re-melt down to 100µm, the defects that
DELIVER MORE WITH remain post-polishing are intrinsically large and may be poten-

LASERBITS tial sites for failures. Laser polishing makes the inspection of such
defects simpler and more amenable to automated vision systems.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this process, an area on
a stainless-steel sheet was laser-engraved with the CE symbol
(FIGURE 6). Prior to laser polishing, the surface of the stainless steel
Shop our expanded collection of laserable
had multiple scratches and blemishes. Laser polishing of the area
products at JPPLUS.COM.
with the CE symbol removes all but the deepest of scratches, but
the remaining defects are easier to visualize afterward. Also, as
laser polishing is automated, it produces consistent results and
the lighting parameters used in the vision system do not need to
be altered to suit the polishing.
With the current push for Industry 4.0, the ability to inspect parts
and gather data on defects allows models to be built up that can
predict when and where failures will occur. This allows for a reduc-
tion in downtime and for parts to be cleaned and repaired only
when required.
As laser average power continues to increase and laser cost
continues to fall, processes such as laser cleaning and laser pol-
ishing will become mainstream engineering processes. They pro-
LaserBits | Rowmark | CerMark | DuraBlack
vide significant benefits in terms of reduced consumable cost,
Rack Star Laser Systems
as well as being suitable for automation. Ongoing work with inte-
grated vision systems are offering increased functionality not seen
in the current market and have the potential to greatly increase
their productivity. ✺
JPPLUS.COM • 1-800-869-7800
DAVID GILLEN (dgillen@blueacretechnology.com) is the CEO of Blueacre
Technology, Dundalk, Louth, Ireland; www.blueacretechnology.com.

26 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com

1709ils_26 26 8/31/17 9:02 AM


18-22 Laser Safety Officer with Hazard 1-2 Advanced Engineering 2017,
Group Publisher Alan Bergstein
(603) 891-9447 • alanb@pennwell.com Analysis Training, Rosemont, IL; www. Birmingham, England; www.easyfairs.
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Germany; www.emo-hannover.de classroom-courses/medical-laser-safety-
International Editorial
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25-28 Canadian Manufacturing
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CORPORATE OFFICERS Gentec Electro-Optics, Inc. ......................................................................................... 23
Chairman Robert F. Biolchini
Vice Chairman Frank T. Lauinger
II-VI, Inc. ...................................................................................................................... C2
President and Mark C. Wilmoth Laser Mechanisms, Inc................................................................................................C3
Chief Executive Officer
Executive Vice President, Jayne A. Gilsinger Laser Research Optics .................................................................................................10
Corporate Development
and Strategy Ophir-Spiricon, Inc. ....................................................................................................... 7
Senior Vice President, Brian Conway PhotoMachining........................................................................................................... 20
Finance and Chief Financial Officer
TECHNOLOGY GROUP Rowmark, LLC.............................................................................................................. 26
Senior Vice President and Christine A. Shaw
Publishing Director Scanlab AG ...................................................................................................................11
Synrad, Inc................................................................................................................... 15
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my view

Wishing can make it so—in time

or those readers that follow my industry itself has become more sharing, and
blogs on www.industrial-lasers. ILS has tapped resources there to publish back-
com, you’ll recall that I have been ground information on this vibrant market.
digging into early published ref- In addition, this month we also offer readers a
erences to establish the first ap- look at proven applications in laser additive manu-
pearance of the term “industrial laser.” In doing facturing, fiber laser cutting and welding, and sur-
so, I couldn’t help but notice among them the fol- face treatment.
lowing titles: Our cover features Airbus, who made their first
steps into additive manufacturing in flying aircraft
• “Will Laser Make Grade as Proven Welding in 2014. Peter Sander (Airbus Operations GmbH)
Process?” – Iron Age (1964) tells how the company uses a multistep approach,
• “Lasers Ready for Production Role” – from first parts to clean sheet design (see page 5).
Steel (1964) Benjamin Mehlmann and Josef Sedlmair (F&K
• “Laser Applications Invade Production Field” Delvotec Bondtechnik GmbH) describe combin-
PROSPECTS FOR – Automation (1968) ing a 1kW fiber laser with a heavy-wire bonder to
• “The Great Potential of Laser Beams in connect copper ribbons measuring several milli-
INDUSTRIAL Industry” – The Engineer (1969) meters wide with excellent connection quality and
• “Will Lasers Serve as Heat Treaters Ally” – high speed, specifically for battery pack connec-
Iron Age (1970) tions for e-mobility (see page 12).
• “Laser Makers Finally Get Practical” – Christian Dornscheidt and Caesar Sasse (SMS
Purchasing Week (1971) group) describe the production of hard-to-weld
THE CHINA MARKET • The Laser May Be Ready For the Big Time – strip materials using patented inductive heat treat-
Business Week (1971) ment, including information about fiber lasers
and weld-seam heat treatment on recent installa-
I especially liked the last one because it actually tions for pickling lines in Finland and in Arkansas
took 29 years before industrial laser system reve- (see page 16).
nues cracked the billion-dollar mark in 1990, which I’m happy to welcome back Bob Kolcz
I consider the big time. Sales passed $5 billion in (Prima Power), who writes about P & A Metal
2006 and $10 billion in 2011, and revenues are pro- Fab (Clackamas, OR), a contract fab shop that
jected for more than $13 billion this year. installed a laser/punch combination machine that
A major contributor to this growth in the last provides them with outstanding flexibility, speed,
few years has been the China market, which today accuracy, and productivity (see page 21).
makes up about a third of all industrial laser sys- David Gillen (Blueacre Technology) says that in
tem revenues. In my article describing this vibrant the past, laser cleaning applications have been
market, I point out that estimated laser process- limited. However, he says now it is advancing, as
ing equipment sales in China are expected to top companies are implementing similar principles
$4.5 billion, or 35% of the total market (see page used in medical device and semiconductor pro-
9). No wonder all eyes are on China when consid- cessing to increase yield and reduce overall pro-
ering the growth prospects for industrial lasers. duction costs (see page 24).
It’s a difficult market for analysts to understand
as verifiable in the form of available official gov-
ernment historical statistics—which are not avail- David A. Belforte
able, at least to Westerners. Fortunately, the laser belforte@pennwell.com

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