Fibre lasers are one of the most recent developments in the world of industrial manufacturing. In 2013, the technology single handedly led to a significant revenue boost in the laser market due to its sturdy and practical development on existing laser cutters. Offering a range of new possibilities, it’s no surprise to find that it’s the industrial sector where these devices are most popular.
Whilst fibre lasers provide an unparalleled level of production and efficiency in all industries, the area where the effects are perhaps most being felt is within the automotive sector. Here, not only are fibre lasers allowing companies to save time and money, but it’s also changing the way that manufacturers approach their material types and daily processes.
Subcon Laser are proud to have the sheer power and precision of fibre laser devices in our arsenal of equipment. As a subcontractor to a wide range of sectors, ranging from automotive to power generation, we’re amazed at the incredible improvements offered by this technology. Below, we’re going to look at just how impressive fibre lasers are in the automotive industry.
What is A Fibre Laser?
Before looking specifically at the automotive industry, it may be useful for many readers to if we explain exactly what a fibre laser is. The answer is fairly simple, although requires some background knowledge of existing laser technology.
Lasers, or Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, are explained in the name, although not very clearly. Essentially, a laser works by amplifying or making more light, similar to how a speaker amplifies sound. The way it does this is by stimulating light radiation at an atomic level. Without going into too much detail, it is a method to concentrate light into a powerful beam.
With this in mind, a fibre laser uses this technology, but is a development on what’s called solid state lasers. These are the more common type of lasers currently used in fabrication, and are usually referred to as C02 lasers. A fibre laser is different as the laser is clad in fibre rather than a rod, slab or disk.
Whereas lasers previously been focussed through a lens or mirrors to ensure the best concentration and focus, with fibre cladding a straight beam is assured. As you can imagine, this cuts out a lot of the mediation involved in laser technology.
Co2 vs Fibre Laser
There are a great range of advantages and benefits to the new technology over the standard C02 lasers, and these are showing their strengths in their relevant sectors.
For instance, due to the efficiency offered by the straight laser of fibre cladding, the machines can provide a much higher beam quality with no optics and mirrors. As they’re more stable, they can also withstand the rougher treatment that industrial equipment often undergoes. Knocks and bumps won’t cause the devices to lose their calibrations, which would previously require a specialist to reconfigure the device.
A fibre laser’s beam can also be focussed to a smaller point, giving a greater quality of cut. This reduces any chance of inaccuracies caused in the cutting process and ensures a better product leaves the fabrication area. With this small point and more efficient beam, it even uses less energy that a C02 beam, with about 70-80% being used in the process to pump source as oppose to the few percentage within solid state lasers.
Generally therefore, fibre lasers provide an improved service upon traditional laser cutting, and this has no doubt made it’s effect on the industries that adopt this exciting new technology.
Fibre Lasers in the Automotive Industry
Whilst a wide range of sectors can benefit from including fibre lasers in their production services, the real impact has been seen within the automotive industry. The addition of lasers in general to the car industry has been invaluable, with the revolutionary accuracy and clean cut offered by these devices creating an overall better process.
This is due to laser’s ability to successfully cut and fabricate a wide range of metal sheets. Changing the raw materials into parts ranging from car panels and shells all the way through to the small parts used in engine production, have further improved the industrial scale at which cars and parts are produced.
Below are some of the key areas that fibre lasers have affected the car industry.
As this article can attest to, automotive industries around the world are benefiting from this technology. From these trials, the welding of vital car parts such as diesel injectors through to airbag initiators have been observed as light work for fibre lasers. Not only can the beam offer quicker welding potential here, but it can be utilised in a process that is much easier to incorporate than previous laser fabrication technology.
Due to the stability and strength of fibre lasers, where they have a much stronger focus ability, they are perfect for addition to robotic arms that currently weld and create production line vehicles.
Another useful aspect of fibre lasers is that the beam quality makes them tolerant to defocusing. Unlike a lot of solid state, the processing parameters of a beam needn’t be changed. This allows the fabrication and manipulation of varying materials without having the stop and reconfigure the machine.
Adapting current robotic arms to this production would mean that the aggregate time of production is decreased, leading to a much quicker process for making the next generation of automobiles.
Finally, regarding turnaround times, fibre lasers have a sealed optical design which means that the routine maintenance that plagues a lot of solid state lasers is a thing of the past. Not having to stop the machines for swapping lens, nozzles and maintenance can dramatically reduce the time to build and manufacture automotive products.
From smaller scale subcontractors to factory sized vehicle production, fibre lasers are helping shave off valuable time during each stage of creation.
Lower production costs
With the introduction of fibre laser cutting comes a reduction in cleaning time, maintenance and reconfiguration. As the whole process of automotive creation is shortened and improved for greater efficiency, this has its effect on the costs involved in the production too. If you consider the overall costs of factory production lines, it’s clear that even removing one minute overall would make a massive impact on these overheads.
The greater quality of cut means that not only is there less time wasted in errors, but also the amount of stoppage time for cleaning is removed. The further streamlined process could potentially see its way to customers, with overall savings based on for companies that utilise this technology, undoubtedly helping them stand out from competition.
Another aspect of the cost process is the amount of energy used by industry. With a greater level of pressure on large scale productions to reduce their waste energy in recent years, fibre lasers have a dramatic effect on this. A fibre laser makes use of much more of the energy used in its process than C02, and companies that use fibre lasers can benefit from an estimated 30-40% reduction in costs.
For an industry that is constantly creating new products, this is a massive difference, and one that could increase the amount of cars and vans created for customers and save money for these companies.
Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, is the way that fibre lasers are changing how the automotive industry is approaching manufacturing. Whilst quicker production times and lower costs are both welcome improvements, with the introduction of fibre lasers, the automotive industry finding a broader range of materials that can be fabricated on the scale required for production.
The stronger beam means that a laser cutter has the ability through a much thicker material with the same amount of power as the standard kilowatt beam. This is due to the increased energy usage, but also the laser’s ability to use a much more focussed beam. In this regard, a fibre laser can easily cut up to an inch of steel.
With previous laser cutting, it hasn’t been possible for the automotive industry to quickly fabricate this lightweight yet incredibly strong material. Now, however, thanks to fibre laser technology, the sector is able to utilise this material in a wide range of applications that will help to produce lighter but sturdier vehicles. The safety and fuel efficiency implications for this are industry changing for the better.
The automotive industry and fibre lasers
The benefits and possibilities offered by the fibre laser cutting are industry changing, affecting every part of the process from creating small engine parts right through to folding pipes and panels.
Not only are fibre lasers saving the industry money, but they’re also providing the ability to work with materials they could previously only dream about using. As more and more companies introduce fibre lasers to their production lines, who knows what further benefits we’ll see from the process.
What do you think of fibre lasers? Do you know any companies currently using this groundbreaking technology? Let us know in the comments!