We all have the image of welding our heads. People with a faceguard on with flaming equipment fixing metal together, a time-tested method. Yet as the earth keeps spinning, advancements are perpetually made in every walk of life including welding.
At Heriot-Watt University pieces of metal have been connected not by the conventional methods but instead with Lasers! This ultra-fast laser system has been successful with an array of different materials like glass and stainless steel, even straying into welding sapphire. Which is new!
How it works is basically little infra-red-light pulses along a designated path every pico-second (which is one-trillionth of a second)
The issue up until now has been the difficulty in welding materials of different properties. Think metal and glass. Glass can easily shatter at such high temperatures, previous to this discovery Glass and metal were usually glued together which as anyone can imagine isn’t as structurally sound as thing that are welded are, movement is also an issue due to the adhesives. Another downfall of using glues rather than any other method is outgassing, where the gasses are released limiting the life of the product.
A more detailed look at the process reveals that those involved placed the materials very close to each other and put intense beam on one spot about a few microns across (that is one millionth of a meter.)
This then creates a small lightning strike around which there is a melt region.
They then tested it at different temperatures to account for extreme circumstances and found that it was effective at both ends of the spectrum.
It’s not just welders affected by this leap-forward, but designers as well. As stated, it was hard to weld glass and metal together, meaning designer may have had to compromise and make changes to designs which now they won’t. It also gives far more places for designs to go in future, as they will have this equipment as their disposal.
It may only be at the end of the testing stages, but once this is widely available it will change how we look at welding forever and we’ll see some pretty unique welds done with it! Whether you want to look more into this, or more about current welding you can visit weldingmania and maybe soon you be using small lasers to craft your very own creations.