Process Innovation with a Custom Beam Shape

MediCom’s welding lasers are used by well-known automotive suppliers for the reliable production of pressure- and liquid-tight plastic fuel filter enclosures. (Source: MediCom)

MediCom’s welding lasers are used by well-known automotive suppliers for the reliable production of pressure- and liquid-tight plastic fuel filter enclosures. (Source: MediCom)

Seven years of Czech-German shared success: Since 2008, LIMO has been supplying the Prague-based company MediCom with industrial laser systems that have proven effective in process-stable laser transmission welding for plastic fuel filter enclosures. “LIMO has been MediCom’s key supplier of diode laser modules since the year 2000,” says Michal Horáček, Project Manager Industrial Lasers Division at the Prague-based MediCom Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of laser systems for industrial production and medical technology. The use of these components in laser systems for the medical industry went so well that, after eight years, the two sides expanded their business relationship to include the industrial sector. Horáček notes, “When we started a new product line of welding lasers in 2008, LIMO products were our first choice because of their high performance and excellent reliability.”

Since then, LIMO has supplied a large number of industrial laser systems that MediCom integrates into its welding lasers. These systems comprise fiber-coupled 200 W diode laser modules that feature an intelligent laser processing head and a sensor for non-contact temperature measurement (pyrometer) and have become the “heart of our laser welding system”, as Horáček puts it. The systems are used by notable automotive suppliers to weld fuel filter enclosures, whose weld seams remain reliably sealed even where the plastic is exposed to extreme pressures (up to 30 bar). Peter Bruns, Director Applications & Technical Service at LIMO in Dortmund says: “With our solutions, it is even possible to weld automotive components made of glass fiber reinforced plastic, where weld seams need to withstand pulse pressures of up to 65 bar over a temperature range of −40 to +125 °C.”

One special feature is the new intelligent laser processing head, which offers extremely versatile beam geometry and intensity distribution and, thanks to a controlled, locally limited energy impact, also ensures an ideal temperature distribution in the component. Just like the L³ LIMO line laser system with its patented beam shaping capability, this new head can be used to produce diverse beam geometries and weld complex 3D contours. Because the beam shape is adapted to each individual application, both the quality and productivity of the assembly process can be increased. “Another feature is the process control integrated in the head. This control is based on the synergy of precision pyrometric temperature measurement with laser output measurement and thus enables real-time control and diagnostics,” says Bruns. “Because we know what is being measured and how to measure it, this process control works across a very wide range of applications – in the contour or simultaneous welding of non-homogeneous plastics, for example.”

These fuel filter enclosures are assembled using MediCom welding lasers, in which industrial laser systems with an intelligent laser processing head can also be adapted to complex 3D contours. (Source: MediCom)

These fuel filter enclosures are assembled using MediCom welding lasers, in which industrial laser systems with an intelligent laser processing head can also be adapted to complex 3D contours. (Source: MediCom)

For one large German automotive supplier in particular, a solution was designed that is fully in keeping with the industry 4.0 concept. Here, LIMO developed a laser head program which controls the process and monitors the welding operation. This results in what is referred to as “machine-to-machine” communication via the fieldbus. As Bruns explains, “For each component, the system signals whether the individual welding operation – including all of the welding parameters – was “OK” or “not OK”. Thanks to the closed-loop control system and fully in-line quality control, customers benefit from a stable and fast welding process. They can also satisfy mandatory documentation requirements for safety components. Because the standard laser processing head already includes the necessary software, “laser transmission welding 4.0” is now also possible at other companies and in other industries, according to Bruns.

These applications demonstrate how a company in the laser industry was able to transform itself from a pure component manufacturer into a reliable process supplier that fills the role previously performed by general contractors. “Most jobs at LIMO start with a feasibility study,” says Bruns. “In many cases, we then conduct testing under series production conditions in a pre-production run.” This process expertise is now being utilized in many different industries, e.g. for the temperature-controlled welding of endless plastic profiles with application-specific laser line distributions, the non-porous and splashless joining of PC and PMMA plastic parts, or the assembly of lightweight components made of composites, e.g. glass and carbon fiber reinforced plastics. (Source: LIMO)

Links: MediCom Inc., Prague, Czech RepublicLIMO Lissotschenko Mikrooptik GmbH, Dortmund, Germany

 

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