Automotive Lasers: What You Need to Know
While the use of lasers in the automotive industry has exploded over the years, today this technology plays a key role in the manufacture of automotive parts. While welding and laser cutting used to be the main applications, today engraving, labeling and marking are an important part of all laser applications.
Laser Processing Market
The industrial laser market has grown due to the increasing reliance on automation to improve precision and productivity. The laser market is expected to grow rapidly due to the growing demand for high-precision lasers for various applications.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of laser technology, its applications, and the future of manufacturing.
The dominance of the laser in the automotive industry
Automakers are constantly looking for ways to streamline their processes to reduce costs and increase revenue by reducing assembly time. Much of today’s automotive manufacturing is automated, with robots taking over many traditional operations. Lasers are currently being used alongside this technology to improve performance, along with many other benefits that will be discussed later.
Textiles, plastics, rubber and glass are used in the automotive industry and can be processed with a laser system. In fact, lasers are used in all phases of automotive production, both interior and exterior.
In addition to the mass production of cars, lasers are also used in high-tech industries to manufacture custom vehicles. The goal is not to increase production speed, but to improve quality and reduce material waste.
Advantages of laser technology in the automotive industry
1. High precision
The latest lasers are in high demand and consistently deliver high quality products. In the past, errors caused by part repositioning were the only downside of lasers, but modern lasers use imaging cameras to verify positioning and reduce errors.
Laser systems can also work without cameras and instead counteract changes in depth with a special optical structure. Modern lasers can tolerate depth variations of +/- 3 mm during processing, which ensures consistent quality even with large depth variations.
2. Practical changes
Although changeover time is required, this additional time impacts productivity. Fortunately, with lasers, switching the system only takes a few seconds. Changes can be fully automated and accurately performed by the software system the moment they occur.
3. Fast processing speed
Lasers have a high processing speed, which is of great importance for car manufacturers. In material processing, the processing speed can be increased by doubling the laser power.
4. Waste reduction
The lasers work without consumables, which significantly reduces waste. Lasers help manufacturers reduce their reliance on consumables such as abrasives, tapes, chemicals, labels and ink. In addition, lasers do not consume tools that would otherwise be a source of waste.
5. Placement of small production areas
Manufacturing space is expensive and new machines often require access to large work areas. Fortunately, advances in modern laser technology allow laser machines to operate efficiently while being compact in size. They are ideal for compact production lines with limited space. For example, the height of a flatbed laser machine is only 2 feet by 4 feet.
Lasers are versatile and can work with a wide variety of components and materials. Laser settings can also be changed at any time, allowing for multiple surgeries.
Lasers can machine any surface that light passes through, allowing them to machine complex geometries that would otherwise be difficult with standard tools.
Application of laser technology in the automotive industry
Plastic parts such as pillars, bumpers, spoilers, dashboards, panels, number plates and lamp housings are usually laser machined. These components are made of plastics such as TPO, ABS, HDPE, polycarbonate and polypropylene. Because many parts are 3D, many applications work in conjunction with robotic systems.
Laser processing of plastics is not limited to trimming and trimming; The same technology can be used for surface modification and discoloration. This is necessary when the component is glued to an adhesive painted surface, as the paint must be stripped or sanded to achieve better adhesion.
In addition to plastic, other materials such as interior fabrics are also laser cut. The processing speed depends on the type of material and its thickness, but a more powerful laser can cut faster.
Synthetic fabrics are cut evenly with clean edges and sealed to prevent material from tangling during assembly. Artificial and natural leather for car upholstery can be cut using the same technology. Lasers are often used to coat interior pillars of vehicles.
Hybrid and electric vehicles are rapidly conquering the automotive market, forcing manufacturers to adopt new technologies. Electric vehicles use copper bolts to create a magnetic field. These pads are covered with a dielectric varnish that needs to be partially removed before they can be soldered. The lasers really do the whole process.
Laser welding offers economical and efficient solutions for joining raw steel car bodies (BIW). The stiffness of the laser joint increases in direct proportion to the strength of the laser weld. Optimizing the shape of the laser weld significantly reduces the risk of breakage.
Disk and fiber lasers
The latest laser technology is disc and laser. Fiber lasers that deliver higher power with better beam divergence. These laser welding systems produce lighter and higher quality welds than traditional tools.
They also offer designers complete flexibility in weld location and geometry without sacrificing speed. They can reduce the number of welds required, improve vehicle safety and reduce manufacturing costs.
The future of the laser in the automotive industry
While fiber and disk lasers are the latest innovations in the automotive industry, diode lasers will eventually replace them. Diode lasers are now poised to replace other tools in welding applications. They will find their place in the automotive industry with the increasing use of plastic materials.
In the future, however, the use of lasers in the automotive industry will depend on vehicle design. The use of lasers with designs inspired by space structures is expected to increase. However, other technologies can make good use of materials such as composites and magnesium.