Laser Plastic Welding

The invisible laser beam is directed at the joint from above. Inert gas from the big nozzle flows around the weld bead and compressed air from the small nozzle removes fumes. Photograph taken by Krorc.

Thermoplastic materials can be welded by diode lasers. Using a laser beam, two plastic materials are combined by heat. The welding process is highly automated, using top-of-the-line process control systems to acheive product quality. Both the automotive and medical industries find laser welding an attractive alternative to ultrasonic welding, which often leaves flash or loose particles behind. These may particles cause failure in the product.

For plastics to bond properly, welding requires specific material and component design. Both pieces of thermoplastic materials should be compatible with an overlapping melting range. In addition, the top plastic component should be transparent for the laser beam to penetrate. The surface of the bottom layer must be able to absorb the laser.

Advantages of Laser Plastic Welding

One advantage of laser welding concerns the plastic itself. Development of these plastic material leads to additional applications. One more advantage is that welding seams can be concealed. Heat is used extensively in traditional welding methods and it can damage the product’s components.

Also, laser plastic welding does not leave residues or loose particles around the seam, making it ideal for medical applications. Vibrations, typical with other welding techniques, are not a problem with laser welding. Neither is friction. Because flange widths can be reduced or eliminated, In addition, less material is used at thinner thicknesses, which reduces material component and cost.

Laser plastic welding is also much cleaner than adhesive bonding because there is no micro-nozzles, which may become clogged. In addition to generating much less heat than the other methods, laser welding doesn’t use liquid or expel fumes. These may affect the surface finish.

Many components in the aviation and automotive industries are now made from fiber reinforced plastics. Laser welding can help manufacturers produce these strong, lightweight components to rigorous design and safety standards.

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