Users Ask for Less Expensive Solutions
Jörg Schwartz, Contributing Editor
"The future is bright" could be a manufacturer's summary of the outlook for laser machining. "Just make it affordable" is a typical response from industrial users. As usual, reality lies somewhere between the two: Laser machining systems compete with non-photonic technologies for business, not only on price but also on flexibility and potential to improve the manufacturing process.
No user takes a machining laser as a stand-alone tool; successful system integration of lasers with computer-guided robotics and instrumentation is as important as the quality of the laser source.
Automotive body makers told Photonics Spectra that they are still unhappy with the operating costs of their laser welding systems. In addition, car developers complain that they cannot yet realize all the expected potential of laser machining. For example, laser welding has a smaller heat-affected zone, so transmissions or other large parts can be made smaller and still survive welding. As yet, however, laser-welded parts do not fulfil safety requirements in crash-relevant areas.