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FEATURE MATERIALS PROCESSING Master of metal Laser welding of a

continuous seam in a pipe. Specially-designed rollers shape the flat metal sheet as it comes from the coil, forming a tube

With Lasys fast approaching, Jessica Rowbury looks at industrial laser processing and finds that solid-state lasers are catching up with CO2

thick metals A

t a press conference that took place in April in preparation for the laser material processing trade fair, Lasys, the German Engineering

Association (VDMA) presented its figures for the business year 2013, showing that the worldwide production volume of laser systems used for material processing achieved by the member

20 ELECTRO OPTICS l JUNE 2014 when it comes to cutting

companies of VDMA and including such value added contributed by internationally operating companies amounted to €913 million – the highest value since the pre-economic crisis in 2007. This has been attributed to the rise in solid-state systems being used for additional manufacturing processes. According to Gerhard Hein from the VDMA, these figures not only indicate that there will be a prosperous environment at Lasys when it takes place from 24 to 26 June in Stuttgart, Germany, but that 2014 will also be a successful business period for the laser materials processing market. However, according to Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of the Trumpf Group and president of its laser technology and electronics division, who will be speaking at the show on how the laser has become a commodity and the subsequent changes in the marketplace, it is questionable whether only companies that are vertically

integrated and that are producing high-powered lasers in high volumes will be competitive as the industry witnesses a technological shift. In the last 10 years, the entry of low-cost laser diodes into the market has been a driver in the rise of solid-state industrial systems, according to Leibinger. ‘There is a rapid shift to novel laser technologies through the introduction of low-cost reliable laser diodes that were not available before,’ he explained. ‘That led to the introduction of fibre and disk lasers, and the replacement of CO2

lasers for cutting − which

is the major application − and a rapid price reduction of these types of lasers.’ Until recently, CO2

lasers were the lasers of

choice for cutting thicker metals. ‘The cut quality of the 1µm lasers [solid-state] was not satisfactory in thick metals above 5mm – the quality of the cut was inferior to most CO2

laser-based machines,’ said Leibinger. However, the solid- @electrooptics |


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