Manufacturing is a highly demanding industry. Not only do the products have to adhere to strict standards, they also have to be made quickly and in sufficient numbers to meet the ever-increasing demand. This makes technology an important component in modern-day manufacturing. There are still several processes that require the human touch, but by and large, most operations are performed by automated equipment and machines that are usually a combination of various technologies.
One such technology is the laser. These powerful light beams can manipulate almost any kind of material, from the extremely tough like titanium and tungsten, to the very delicate like silk and paper. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a modern consumer product that has not undergone a form of laser processing during the entire process of its creation.
So why is laser processing such a vital component in modern-day manufacturing? That’s because of its myriad benefits, a few of which we list below.
Accuracy and Precision
Lasers can be used to cut, drill, engrave, mark, or weld a wide range of materials with a high level of accuracy, precision, and repeatability. These powerful lasers are often mounted on high-precision linear stages, which are then attached to machines that can be programmed to perform the necessary action. With this combination of high-power lasers and precision motion solutions, various work operations can be performed repeatedly without losing dimensional tolerance no matter the distance and measurement.
Just picture stents, or the tubes that doctors use to keep vessels like arteries and veins open. They may look like simple, solid metal pipes but in reality, they have tiny screen-like patterns. Cutting the mesh by hand accurately and precisely is simply impossible, especially since some stents can be thinner than .10 millimeters; moreover, stent grafts that are used for larger arteries are made from fabric, which makes cutting in smaller dimensions even more difficult to accomplish manually. By using automated laser cutters, stents can be manufactured to easily meet the stringent standards required from medical equipment and tools.
Speed and Safety
Because lasers are much more powerful than traditional machines used for cutting, drilling, marking, or welding, they can accomplish tasks in a shorter period of time. And because lasers can be used to process different kinds of materials, there is no need to switch from one machine to another; as long as the type of laser is suited to the process being performed, the operator only needs to adjust the settings (e.g., position and intensity) and the laser can be made to handle the task. These two facets alone greatly reduce the time needed for manufacturing various products.
Laser processing is also highly safe, as the machines themselves are housed in air-tight enclosures to ensure that no harmful gases, dust, and other particles can escape. Many laser processing machines are also equipped with cladding elements, hoods, and shielding glasses, further enhancing their safety. Coupled with various personal protective equipment such as safety goggles, laser processing poses very minimal risks to worker health and safety.
Because lasers can be used to manipulate different kinds of materials, there is a reduced need to invest on different kinds of machines. Laser processing equipment also have fewer components that come into physical contact with each other, which lowers maintenance frequency and costs. The high level of accuracy, precision, and repeatability of laser processing also lower the chances of producing substandard products and overall internal failures, which cost companies thousands of dollars in losses.
Finally, lasers have lower energy requirements which in turn lowers operational costs. The lower carbon footprint — which many savvy consumers now consider before patronizing a product — is simply an added bonus of an energy-efficient manufacturing process.
As time goes on, consumers continue to expect — dare we say demand — more from brands in terms of product standards and speed of service. With the help of laser processing, various industries can cater to these expectations without having to sacrifice quality and profitability.