In this article we take a closer look at micro welding capabilities. Here we explore the smallest possible micro weld, and how this capability allows for advancement in medical devices and more.
First off, what is micro welding?
Micro welding is a manufacturing process involving the joining of two components with an extremely small fusion zone between them, on the scale of microns. This process uses high precision weld equipment to fuse two materials together at the molecular level. Micro welding is generally conducted by focused laser to create localized fusion between two materials. This article focuses on two emerging micro welding technologies: the fiber laser and the femtosecond laser. These technologies are really pushing the limits of micro welding, creating new possibilities in medical devices, biotechnologies and more.
What is the smallest micro weld that can be made?
New welding technologies are allowing for extremely small welds, with spot sizes on the scale of 10 microns or less. That said, there are variety of factors that make for a successful weld, which may include: the materials to be joined, part geometries, and fixturing. Additionally, the smaller weld size can also adversely affect weld strength and hence may not be suitable for certain applications. Finally, this question will always depend on human innovation and creativity, as our team will always be up for the challenge of welding on an even smaller scale than the sizing aforementioned, should the need arise.
How fiber lasers allow for incredibly small welds.
Fiber lasers utilize optical fibers doped with various rare earth elements to deliver a highly efficient and highly precise laser beam. The usage of various dopants allow for extremely short wavelength laser beams, resulting in incredibly small spot sizes. For example, Ytterbium-doped fiber lasers provide a laser output as small as 1 micron in wavelength. Hence, these lasers can create micro welding spot sizes potentially as small as 10 microns and are an excellent choice for precision medical devices and other micro assembly applications.
What are the smallest welds that can be made by femtosecond laser?
Femtosecond lasers use ultra fast laser pulses on the range of femtoseconds (10^-15 seconds). These lasers are typically used to micromachine incredibly precise and high resolution features with little to no heat affected zone. Femtosecond lasers are generally not capable of traditional welding due to the minimal heat generated by this process. Instead, manufacturing innovators are exploring this technology for a process described as “cold welding.” This relatively new application is capable of bonding two metals together at the nano-scale without the use of heat. Thus, it is possible to create a bond with virtually no spot size. Though this use application is still largely in development, it has great potential to drive future innovation in the smallest of biomedical and micro electronic devices.
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