In the automotive industry, laser welding is on the rise due to increased vehicle electrification and consumer demand for safe and comfortable vehicle features. A quick and clean technique, laser welding is used on components in cameras, climate controls, and even in EV transmissions. It is imperative the correct material is used when laser welding. Some materials have limitations that could increase faulty parts, risking your brands reputation. Instead make sure to use the proper material solution that will decrease your risk of defects.
The automotive industry is shifting demand away from traditional welding methods to laser welding, fuelled by increased vehicle electrification and increasing consumer demand for comfort, safety and performance-enhancing features. Globally, laser welding demand is expected to be valued at 5.387 million USD by 2032 as more electronic functionalities, like cameras, adaptive cruise control and climate control are integrated into automotive parts.
For automakers, laser welding promises fast and clean processing and increased design flexibility, which makes it well-suited to the integration of sensitive parts such as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and cameras. It enables moisture and dust protection for electronics, and battery systems in electric vehicles. With the precision of laser beams, it’s also an efficient and relatively cost-effective technique for high-volume applications that require automation.
Although laser welding is being utilized more and more, you need to make sure you are using the best materials solutions. If you use the wrong materials, you may risk your brand’s and business’s reputation.
Certain market-leading laser welding materials have limitations and, in some cases, could lead to faults. Thus, faulty parts may lead to recalls, reputational damage, repair costs, and even liability for damage incurred. To get the process right, you need a partner with deep design expertise and material know-how.
Envalior, formerly DSM Engineering Materials and Lanxess HPM, can help. We offer a variety of materials for laser welding, including our high-performance Arnite® polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), which achieves faster cycle times than conventional solutions. Arnite PBT can be used in a range of welding material thicknesses and colorations – including our custom laser-transparent black – to accommodate a variety of application requirements and designs.
In a study where laser welding was performed on radar housings using our Arnite PBT material and a conventional PBT, Arnite PBT enabled welding cycles that are twice as fast, or faster, as competitive materials, with no signs of surface defects or burns. By choosing Arnite PBT (LT TV4 261) over conventional PBT, you can increase productivity and reduce your costs.
Looking at materials targeting demanding laser welding applications, our material’s moisture absorption is significantly lower than competitive materials. This equates to better stability and a lower chance of air leakage, which means you can design parts with higher tolerances and support a range of laser welding options for rapidly welding with good performances.
High transparency is critical to achieving thicker robust designs with increased dimensional stability because it supports a wider processing window for laser welding requirements. Take, for example, transmission laser welding. The laser beam passes through a transparent or quasi-transparent top layer to reach the laser-absorbing component underneath. The right combination of transparency and absorbency will cause a melt pool to form precisely where the layers meet. As the bottom part absorbs the laser energy and melts, it transfers the heat to the top layer, causing it to melt as well. As the molten polymers cool under a clamping force, they bond together to form a weld seam.
The broader the processing window, the less susceptible the part is to defects throughout the manufacturing process. Compared to conventional PBTs, Arnite (LT TV4 261) demonstrates a 300% improvement in transparency, increasing manufacturing efficiency while reducing part defects.
Conventional PBTs are typically reinforced with glass fibers (GF) to prevent loss of stiffness during welding, yet the presence of additives often reduces the plastic’s transparency. When a polymer’s transparency drops too low, the welding process becomes challenging or even impossible. Rather than pass through the top layer, the laser beam can absorb into the plastic and cause ablation at its surface before the welding has even begun. An inherently high-transparency material, Arnite PBT provides an excellent foundation for laser transmission welding in a variety of thicknesses and GF percentages.
As a trusted partner to the automotive sector, our global team of engineers, scientists and technicians will work with you throughout the part design, creation, and optimization process to ensure a safe and reliable product.
We offer recommendations for the specific grades and welding techniques best suited to your application to ensure the strongest possible weld line. Additionally, we can be an alternative second source supplier to further reduce your supply chain risks, while working with you from start to finish to achieve competitive results.
Envalior, formerly DSM Engineering Materials and Lanxess HPM, is a global leader in material science innovation, with a robust portfolio of materials built to support next-generation technologies across a broad range of global industries, including automotive and electronics. Our solutions are backed by extensive research, testing and collaboration with OEMs and connector manufacturers, to deliver on all your safety, reliability and design flexibility needs.
Secondary technology expert at Envalior
Frank is part of the advanced engineering group within Envalior, Research & Technology. He joined Envalior in 2006 and held positions in polymer characterization and research and development. Frank received his PhD in 2002 on the topic of polymer crystallization in the Chemical Technology department of the Eindhoven University of Technology.
26 June 2023
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