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Laser Welding Vs Argon Arc (Tig) Welding: The Differences Explained

What is laser welding?

In short, laser welding is the process of melting the material on the surface of the workpiece with a laser and connecting it with another workpiece made of the same material.

Laser welding is usually used for metals or thermoplastics.

Different types of lasers are also used for welding.

laser welding machine

The earlier applications are solid-state lasers (such as Nd: YAG) or gas lasers (such as CO2 lasers), which are widely used at present.

Laser is just a highly concentrated beam of light, which provides huge energy.

High power density lasers allow them to melt the material of the workpiece in a controlled manner.

By placing the material under the high-energy laser beam, the molecules on its surface obtain enough energy, so as to obtain more fluid properties.

When the excited state molecules of the same substance contact and move to the lower excited state at the same time, they will reduce to a solid and form bonds at the molecular level.

Until the late 1990s, laser welding (like other laser based technologies) was almost exclusively used in laboratories and research institutions.

During this period, the concept of additive manufacturing (especially 3D printing) became popular.

Although 3D printing technology using plastic resin or filament has been developed, there are few feasible methods to apply the same process to metal.

The appearance of laser welding technology makes the connection of powder metal as raw material fast and highly automatic.

The popularization of 3D printing also promotes the development of laser welding technology, which makes this previous experimental technology occupy a place in modern manufacturing industry.

Principle and process of laser welding

The laser contains extremely high energy. When the laser irradiates the workpiece, the high energy will melt the irradiated part of the workpiece, which is the basis of laser welding technology.

Of course, the laser also belongs to light, so the surface of the workpiece to be treated cannot be too smooth to reduce the laser reflection.

The laser only irradiates at one point of the workpiece, so that the workpiece locally reaches a very high temperature and melts.

When the laser action is terminated, the locally melted metal will solidify rapidly.

According to the different output modes of laser beam, laser welding can be divided into pulse laser welding and continuous laser welding.

According to the characteristics of weld formation during laser welding, laser welding can be divided into thermal conductivity welding and deep penetration welding.

The former uses low laser power, long molten pool formation time and shallow melting depth, which is mostly used for the welding of small parts;

The latter uses high laser power density and fast metal melting speed in the laser radiation area. When the metal melts, it is accompanied by strong vaporization.

It can obtain welds with large penetration depth and large depth width ratio, up to 12:1.

During laser welding, the laser “injects” heat into the material through the spot, and the temperature rise rate of the material is very fast.

The material deep below the surface can reach a very high temperature in a very short time.

The penetration depth of the weldment can be controlled by the power density of the laser.

Because the laser beam can change the direction arbitrarily by using the mirror, it can weld the parts of the workpiece that are difficult to access by the general welding method.

Laser welding system usually adopts 1 ~ 4kw CO2 laser.

The laser beam generated by the laser is transmitted to the parabolic mirror for reflection and focusing through the light guide system.

The high-temperature beam up to 5000 ~ 20000 K near the focus is emitted from the nozzle and irradiated on the metal plate joint, which will melt the metal material at the joint instantly.

The laser beam moves forward and the molten metal solidifies to form a weld, connecting the two separated metal plates as a whole.

Since the gas laser can be continuously welded, it is suitable for welding 0.12 ~ 12mm thick low alloy steel, stainless steel, nickel, titanium, aluminum and other metals and their alloys.

When using solid-state laser welding, due to the small output energy (1 ~ 50J) and short pulse laser duration (< 10ms), the solder joint can be as small as tens of microns.

Therefore, it can be used for spot welding and continuous spot welding of metal foil with thickness less than 0.5mm and butt welding of metal wire with diameter less than 0.6mm;

It is also applicable to the welding of miniature, precise, densely arranged and heat sensitive valuable instrument components.

The joint type of laser welding is the same as that of ordinary welding.

What are the welding methods of laser welding machine:

1. Resistance welding

It is used for welding thin metal products, clamping the welded workpiece between two electrical levels, melting the surface touched by the electrical level according to the large amount of current, that is, welding is performed according to the hot resistance of the product workpiece.

The product workpiece is easy to deform. The resistance welding is welded according to both sides of the connector, while the laser welding is only carried out from one side.

The common electrical level of resistance welding needs frequent maintenance to eliminate metal oxides and metal materials adhered to the product workpiece.

When laser welding the thin metal material reinforcement lap connector, it does not touch the product workpiece.

Secondly, the light can enter the areas that cannot be welded by basic welding, and the welding speed is fast.

2. Argon arc welding

The use of non power consuming and maintenance steam is common to weld thin product workpieces, but the welding rate is relatively slow, and the thermal bonding is much larger than laser welding, which is easy to cause deformation.

3. Plasma arc welding

The arc welding speed is similar to that of argon arc welding, but it is slower than that of argon arc welding.

4. Electron beam welding

It relies on a beam to accelerate the high-energy relative density electron flow to collide with the product workpiece.

The key defect of electron beam welding is that it must be high vacuum to avoid electron scattering.

The machinery and equipment are complicated.

The specification and appearance of weldments are limited by the vacuum system.

The installation quality of butt weldments is strict.

Non vacuum pump electron beam welding can also be implemented, but the focus is not good due to electron scattering, which endangers the actual effect.

Electron beam welding also has magnetic deviation and X-ray problems.

Because electronic devices are induced to be powered on, they will be harmed by electromagnetic field deviation.

Therefore, it is stipulated that the workpiece of electron beam welding products should be welded to magnetic field.

Laser welding does not need vacuum system and demagnetization before welding the product workpiece. It can be carried out in the air.

Therefore, it can be actually operated in the intranet of the production line or welded with permanent magnet materials.

Advantages and disadvantages of laser welding

When studying the advantages and disadvantages of laser welding technology, it is more worthy to compare it with traditional welding technologies, such as gas shielded welding and argon arc welding.

After all, these classic welding technologies are still widely used in the manufacturing industry.

It still takes some time for laser welding to completely replace traditional welding.

Advantage:

Laser welding is more suitable for automatic manufacturing.

Although laser welding has been widely used in 3D printing, it can also be used in the automation of traditional welding applications.

Automatic welding provides many conveniences for manufacturers.

If the manual operation is reduced, the product precision is higher and the quality is more stable.

Automation systems are also much faster than manual welders, and traditional welding still requires a large number of welders.

Wide range of compatible materials

In traditional welding such as argon arc welding, the conversion from one material to another involves changing the flame temperature and arc strength.

The working principle of laser is roughly the same.

The laser can adjust the power to adapt to different materials.

In this case, the main advantage of lasers is that they can preset parameters for different materials, making it more convenient to weld a variety of materials.

The high power density of laser enables it to weld materials, which is a challenge for other welding technologies.

There are a wide range of materials that can be welded by laser, including super metals, such as titanium and carbon steel.

In terms of power density, the only technology that can complete laser welding is electron beam welding.

Fast heating rate

Another advantage of high power density laser is that it melts materials much faster than flame or arc.

This provides faster welding speed and stronger welds.

The penetration depth of laser welding can be controlled by adjusting the laser welding power. Laser pulses can be applied to almost any material to prevent damage to materials and equipment.

Complex geometry joints can be welded

The unique feature of laser welding is the super long welding distance.

Laser welded joints do not need to be close to the material to provide the energy required for welding.

This provides more space for the operation of the workpiece and makes it possible to weld the workpiece with complex geometry.

High safety

Laser welding machines are usually fully automatic and have a closed workspace.

This means that personnel are no longer exposed to high temperatures and particles during welding.

On this point alone, laser welding machine is worth investing.

Any technology that can improve workplace safety and keep people away from unnecessary hazards is worth considering.

Disadvantages:

There is a risk of cracking when the metal cools rapidly.

Anything that heats fast cools fast.

The same is true of laser welding. The local transmission of energy through the laser means that the joints can be welded together soon.

However, this also means that the heat in the weld is dissipated rapidly through the material.

This leads to huge thermal stress accumulation, and only some materials can avoid cracking without damage.

Carbon steel is a typical example. It is easy to embrittle when cooled too fast.

The one-time investment of equipment cost is high

This may be the biggest obstacle to the wide application of this technology – the price of laser welding machine is expensive. This is more obvious than gas shielded welding and argon arc welding.

Traditional welding requires skilled welders, but does not necessarily require expensive equipment.

Laser welding overturns the idea that equipment is expensive, but operation does not require too many skills.

With the large-scale production, laser welding equipment will mature with the industrial chain. Like the early LED lighting industry, the price is more close to the people and is widely used. Traditional welding may complete its mission and enter the history museum.

What is TIG welding?

Tungsten inert gas shielded welding is referred to as TIG welding.

It is a welding method that uses the arc generated between tungsten electrode and workpiece to heat melt the base metal and filler wire (if filler wire is used) under the protection of inert gas.

During welding, the protective gas is continuously sprayed from the nozzle of the welding gun to form a gas protective layer around the arc to isolate the air, so as to prevent its harmful impact on the tungsten electrode, molten pool and adjacent heat affected zone, so as to obtain high-quality welds.

The shielding gas can be argon, helium or argon helium mixture.

Related reading: MIG vs TIG Welding

Overview of TIG welding

Tungsten inert gas arc welding is an arc welding method using external gas as protective medium. Its advantages are good visibility of arc and molten pool and convenient operation;

There is no slag or little slag, and there is no need to remove slag after welding.

However, special windproof measures shall be taken during outdoor operation.

According to whether the electrode is melted in the welding process, gas shielded welding can be divided into non melting electrode (tungsten electrode) gas shielded welding and melting electrode gas shielded welding.

The former includes tungsten inert gas welding, plasma arc welding and atomic hydrogen welding.

Atomic hydrogen welding is rarely used in production at present.

In special applications, a small amount of hydrogen can be added.

Argon arc welding is called tungsten argon arc welding, and helium arc welding is called tungsten helium arc welding.

Due to the high price of helium, tungsten argon arc welding is more widely used in industry than helium arc welding.

Classification of TIG welding

TIG welding is divided into manual welding, semi-automatic welding and automatic welding according to the operation mode.

During manual TIG welding, the movement of welding gun and the addition of filler wire are completely operated by hand;

During semi-automatic TIG welding, the movement of the welding gun depends on manual operation, but the filler wire is automatically fed by the wire feeding mechanism;

During automatic TIG welding, if the workpiece is fixed and the arc moves, the welding gun is installed on the welding trolley.

The walking of the trolley and the filler wire can be added by cold wire or hot wire.

Hot wire refers to increasing the deposition speed.

In some cases, such as sheet welding or backing pass, it is sometimes not necessary to add filler wire.

Among the above three welding methods, manual TIG welding is the most widely used, while semi-automatic TIG welding is rarely used.

Advantages and disadvantages of TIG welding

argon arc welding

Advantage

1. Argon can be effectively isolated from the surrounding air;

It itself is insoluble in metal and does not react with metal;

In the process of TIG welding, the arc can also automatically remove the oxide film on the surface of the workpiece.

Therefore, it can successfully weld non-ferrous metals, stainless steel and various alloys with easy oxidation, nitriding and strong chemical activity.

2. The tungsten arc is stable and can burn stably even under a small welding current (< 10a). It is especially suitable for the welding of thin plate and ultra-thin plate materials.

3. The heat source and filler wire can be controlled separately, so the heat input is easy to adjust and can be welded at various positions. It is also an ideal method to realize single-sided welding and double-sided blooming.

4. Since the filler wire does not pass through the arc, there will be no spatter and the weld formation is beautiful.

Disadvantage

1. Shallow melting depth, low deposition speed and low productivity.

2. The tungsten electrode has poor current carrying capacity.

Excessive current will cause the tungsten electrode to melt and evaporate, and its particles may enter the molten pool and cause slag pollution (tungsten inclusion).

3. Inert gases (argon and helium) are more expensive, and the production cost is higher compared with other arc welding methods (such as manual arc welding, submerged arc welding, CO2 gas shielded welding, etc.).

TIG welding can be used for welding almost all metals and alloys, but due to its high cost, it is usually used for welding non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, titanium and copper, as well as stainless steel and heat-resistant steel.

For metals with low melting point and easy evaporation (such as lead, tin and zinc), welding is difficult.

The thickness range of plate welded by TIG welding should be less than 3mm from the perspective of productivity.

For some important thick walled components (such as pressure vessels and pipes) of black and non-ferrous metals, in order to ensure high welding quality, tungsten argon arc welding is sometimes used in root penetration weld bead connection, all position welding and narrow gap connection.

Laser welding vs argon arc welding

Category / modeArgon arc weldingLaser welding
DeformationEasy to deformSlight deformation or no deformation
Aesthetic degreeUnsightly and needs repeated polishingThe appearance is smooth and can be treated slightly
Weld spot sizeLarge weld spotFine weld spot and adjustable spot
Shielding gasArgonArgon
Heat inputHigh heatLow heat
Machining precisionCommonlyPrecise
Processing hoursTime consumingShort time consuming
SecurityUltraviolet light, radiation hazardT exposure to light, almost no harm
Perforation degreeEasy perforationNot easy to pierce
Degree of automation Very low Commonly

Welding speed

Spot welding machine and automatic welding are simply used for classification.

The welding operation of laser spot welding machine is simple and fast.

The operation of non melting electrode argon arc welding is relatively difficult and with consumables, the welding speed is relatively slow.

The welding speed of automatic laser welding machine and automatic MIG welding machine is not very different, because MIG welding still needs molten wire, so the welding speed will be slightly slower than that of automatic laser welding machine;

Welding depth

Laser welding machine is to melt weld materials by laser, but laser is a short board in deep welding.

It’s not that laser deep welding is not good, but that the cost is too high.

For example: if you need to weld a 2.0mm stainless steel plate, if you use a laser welding machine, you have to use a 500W optical fiber transmission laser welding machine at least, and the price is about 100000.

While the general argon arc welding machine can weld such a thick stainless steel plate, but the price is only a few hundred, and the automatic argon arc welding is twenty or thirty thousand. Therefore, it is not cost-effective to use laser welding machine if the penetration required for welding thick materials is very deep;

Welding effect

The welding appearance of laser spot welding machine is more beautiful than that of argon arc welding with non melting electrode.

The welding appearance of automatic laser welding machine is similar to that of automatic argon arc welding machine, and the laser welding of thin materials is better.

In terms of welding firmness, as long as the power of laser welding machine is large enough, it can weld firmly, which is comparable to argon arc welding.

However, the heat of the laser welding machine is more concentrated and the thermal deformation of the material is small, so the laser welding machine has more advantages in welding thin-walled materials.

In terms of precision, the precision of laser welding machine is higher, and the subsequent welding of laser welding machine basically does not need to be processed, which saves time and trouble.

Operation difficulty

The operation of laser spot welding machine is much less difficult than that of non melting electrode argon arc welding.

In fact, argon arc welding needs technology and is prone to mistakes, but laser welding is much better and the operation is simple.

Even if there are mistakes, the problem is not big.

The operation of automatic laser welding and automatic argon arc welding is not difficult. They all need computer control.

Summary

For welding thin-walled materials, it is better to use laser welding machine to weld thick materials.

If there are no high requirements for welding speed and welding accuracy, it is more cost-effective to use argon arc welding machine, but if you don’t care about the cost, it is better to use laser welding machine.

Comparison between handheld laser welding and argon arc welding

Comparison of energy consumption:

Compared with traditional arc welding, handheld laser welding machine can save about 80% ~ 90% of electric energy and reduce the processing cost by about 30%.

Comparison of welding effect:

Laser handheld welding can complete the welding of dissimilar steel and dissimilar metal. Fast speed, small deformation and small heat affected zone.

The welds shall be beautiful, flat, free from / little pores and pollution.

Hand held laser welding machine can carry out micro open parts and precision welding.

Comparison of subsequent processes:

When laser hand-held welding, the heat input is low and the deformation of the workpiece is small, which can obtain a beautiful welding surface without or only need simple treatment (depending on the requirements of the welding surface effect).

Hand held laser welding machine can greatly reduce the labor cost of huge polishing and leveling process.

Advantages of handheld optical fiber welding machine over traditional argon arc welding

ItemHandheld optical fiber laser weldingTraditional argon arc welding
Employment costThe operation is simple, ordinary people start it in half an hour, and the employment cost is lowRecruitment is difficult, wages are high and employment costs are high
Personal injuryPure single wavelength beam energy, low indirect radiation, only need protective glasses to filter strong lightOccupational disease, serious physical injury
EfficiencyThe speed is fast, the efficiency can reach 3-8 times that of argon arc welding, and the linear welding speed can reach more than 10cm / sSlow speed and low efficiency
Thermal deformationEnergy concentration and little influence of thermal deformationLarge thermal influence and deformation
Weld qualityThe weld is fine and beautiful, the solution pool is deep and the strength is highThe weld is rough and irregular, which needs secondary grinding and polishing
Weldable materialVery thin materials can be welded, such as 0.05mm stainless steelDo not weld too thin material
Learning difficultyOrdinary people can get started in half an hour, and inexperienced women workers can also get startedProfessional welders are required, and the technical threshold is high
ConsumablesIt can be welded with filler wire or without welding wireConsumables, welding wire required
Weld damageThe weld is beautiful and fine, the solution pool is uniform and the consistency is good.It is easy to weld through if there are pores

Compared with traditional argon arc welding, handheld optical fiber welding machine has disadvantages

ItemHandheld optical fiber laser weldingTraditional argon arc welding
Gap filling abilityWeak, our company adopts swing welding, which can fuse the gap of 0.3-0.5mm at most, and adopts wire feeding welding, which can fuse the gap of more than 1mm at mostStrong, insensitive to workpiece gap, large gap can be welded through filler
Equipment priceExpensive equipmentCheap equipment
Volume weightRelatively large volume and weightSmall size and light weight
Thick plate weldingIt is not conducive to the welding of thick plate materials. The penetration capacity of 1000 Watt molten pool is about 3mm and 1500 Watt is about 4mm.Thick plate material welding has advantages, which can accumulate and fill the welding solution pool, and can adapt to the welding of thicker materials

Advantages of handheld optical fiber welding machine over traditional argon arc welding

ItemHandheld optical fiber laser weldingTraditional argon arc welding
Employment costThe operation is simple, ordinary people start it in half an hour, and the employment cost is lowRecruitment is difficult, wages are high and employment costs are high
Personal injuryPure single wavelength beam energy, low indirect radiation, only need protective glasses to filter strong lightOccupational disease, serious physical injury
EfficiencyThe speed is fast, the efficiency can reach 3-8 times that of argon arc welding, and the linear welding speed can reach more than 10cm / sSlow speed and low efficiency
Thermal deformationEnergy concentration and little influence of thermal deformationLarge thermal influence and deformation
Weld qualityThe weld is fine and beautiful, the solution pool is deep and the strength is highThe weld is rough and irregular, which needs secondary grinding and polishing
Weldable materialVery thin materials can be welded, such as 0.05mm stainless steelDo not weld too thin material
Learning difficultyOrdinary people can get started in half an hour, and inexperienced women workers can also get startedProfessional welders are required, and the technical threshold is high
ConsumablesIt can be welded with filler wire or without welding wireConsumables, welding wire required
Weld damageThe weld is beautiful and fine, the solution pool is uniform and the consistency is good.It is easy to weld through if there are pores

Disadvantages of handheld optical fiber welding machine over traditional argon arc welding

ItemHandheld optical fiber laser weldingTraditional argon arc welding
Gap filling abilityWeak, our company adopts swing welding, which can fuse the gap of 0.3-0.5mm at most, and adopts wire feeding welding, which can fuse the gap of more than 1mm at mostStrong, insensitive to workpiece gap, large gap can be welded through filler
Equipment priceExpensive equipmentCheap equipment
Volume weightRelatively large volume and weightSmall size and light weight
Thick plate weldingIt is not conducive to the welding of thick plate materials. The penetration capacity of 1000 Watt molten pool is about 3mm and 1500 Watt is about 4mmThick plate material welding has advantages, which can accumulate and fill the welding solution pool, and can adapt to the welding of thicker materials

Table 3: handheld laser welding has obvious advantages over traditional argon arc welding

 Heat effectsubsequent treatmentrequirements for platesrequirements for workerswelding speedavailability of consumables
Argon solitary glowgreatneedThickness > 1mmHigh, usually requires professional technicians (assuming that the salary of professional technicians is 10000 yuan / month)slowYes (flux, welding wire)
Handheld laser weldingVery smallunwantedThickness < 3mmLow, ordinary workers can get started after simple training (assuming that the salary of ordinary workers is 4000 yuan / month)It is 2-10 times that of argon arc weldingnothing

What would you choose between laser welding machine and traditional argon arc welding machine?

Nowadays, there are still some disputes between traditional argon arc welding and laser welding. The update speed of science and technology is unpredictable.

If argon arc welding welders who have operated for more than ten years use laser welding, they will be more or less excluded and unsuitable.

Develop strengths and avoid weaknesses, each has its own advantages. According to the current industrial demand, how should we choose?

laser welding

First of all, speaking of the cost, the price of a traditional argon arc welding machine is about 2000-5000 yuan, which can be accepted by large and small factories.

Small size, light and compact gun head, easy to carry, convenient for going out to work.

The welding speed is slow, the efficiency is low, the heat affected area is large, the solder joint is large, easy to deform, and the requirements for operators are high.

They must undergo professional training and have long-term practical experience.

There is certain radiation damage to human body, which is also the reason why welders are difficult to recruit.

Welders are difficult to recruit, and experienced welders are even more difficult to recruit.

The relative price of laser welding machine is high, which is about 50,000-100,000 yuan, and the volume is large.

It is suitable for batch processing at suitable points. The welding speed is fast and the efficiency is high, which is 5-10 times that of traditional welding.

The spot size is adjustable, and the welding effect is uniform and beautiful without deformation.

Simple operation, low requirements for welders, simple training for about ten minutes.

Wrap it up

Through our comparison, I believe you have a good understanding of laser welding and argon arc welding. Which would you choose? Please leave a message in the comment area and let us know what you think.

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