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Forms and tools

The machining of structural steels or metal alloys used in the manufacture of casting molds and tools is one area that has been largely dominated by laser technology as an alternative to traditional machining methods. The high quality of edges after laser cutting, durable and defect-free welds, and high marking speeds make lasers increasingly popular with manufacturing companies. This is also directly related to the increasing availability of technology, as well as the ease of automation and robotization of production – regardless of the type of metal being processed. Equally importantly, laser-machined parts are often made ready-made, so there is no need for additional post-processing, and thus the associated costs.
Applications of lasers in machining are diverse: starting from the reconstruction and regeneration of damaged surfaces of casting molds, through permanent and secure connections of metal sheets as thick as 25-30 mm, welding of thin- and thick-walled pipes and clear marking of components, and ending with the cutting of profiles of various and complex shapes.

Surface cleaning

The cleanliness of the surface prior to material processing is one of the key factors determining the durability and quality of the connection between two components. Using laser technology, it is possible to easily and quickly remove grease or varnish from metal without the need for additional chemicals or tools. Preparation of the tool for further processing is fast, repeatable and requires no additional downtime; it can also be easily automated or robotized. Laser rust removal is particularly noteworthy, as appropriately selected parameters allow the tool to be quickly cleaned of the effects of corrosion and prepared for reconditioning with laser surfacing.

Resurfacing

Casting molds and tools are just examples of parts that lose their original properties over time due to the progressive abrasion of layers on their surface. Thanks to the development of laser techniques, and laser surfacing in particular, it is easy to restore the former shape of a worn-out part instead of manufacturing or buying a new tool. The deposition of the material is carried out with high precision and accuracy and repeatability without the need for the intervention of a welder. From the entrepreneur’s point of view, laser surfacing involves real cost savings, as the life of the available tool is extended, plus the downtime associated with waiting for a new tool to be manufactured and delivered is eliminated.

Welding

Laser welding has several significant advantages over electric arc welding. First and foremost, it is easy to automate, non-contact, and allows high working speeds with a much smaller heat affected zone. The resulting welds are of high quality, crack-free and have low internal stresses and higher strength than the base material. This makes laser a much cheaper solution for mass production from an economic point of view. Typical examples of laser welding applications include longitudinal joining of tubes and profiles or gears to drive shafts.

Marking

Laser marking by annealing is a technique that takes advantage of changes in the color of a material’s surface due to temperature and the oxidation phenomenon that then occurs. The small diameter of the laser beam makes it possible to locally spot heat the material to a temperature at which the color change of the outer layer of the material occurs. The marking thus produced is characterized by high contrast and accuracy while maintaining surface continuity.

An alternative method to annealing is engraving, during which a laser beam vaporizes a portion of the material. The resulting symbols and marks reach a depth of several micrometers and are resistant to abrasive wear, so they remain clearly visible at all times. The ease of making designs, as well as their repeatability and accuracy, make laser engraving an ideal solution for both unit and high volume production.

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