Audi has introduced a new remote laser welding system that can complete nine seam welds in just 12 seconds.
The German manufacturer, in partnership with Trumpf, showcased the technology at the Laser World of Photonics and revealed how these new welding tools could hang lightweight aluminium parts on the Audi A8 twice as fast as conventional methods.
A 4kW direct diode from Laserline and a beam converter from Heraeus joined forces to produce a 6mm.mrad quality spot. With a Precitec ScanTracker positioning system, Audi was able to control the depth of the weld.
It isn’t just twice as fast, the new welding technique is 25% more energy efficient and saves on costs as no filler is required. The welding technique actually affects the design of the car, too, as the chassis can now have shorter flanges. This saves weight, cost and energy in the manufacturing process.
Trumpf went one step further, producing an underbody for a commercial postal vehicle with no flanges in a joint operation with Aachen University.
The lasers have more uses, too, including laser cutting that allows for more precise and flexible welds later in the process. Lasers can even be used to soften certain parts of a hardened steel structure, making it more ductile. This can eliminate certain welds altogether and make the whole production process much more efficient.
Laser metal fusion can help bond hot-formed parts, which are lighter yet much harder than old-fashioned steel, which again pays dividends in the overall production of a car. Parts that contain a material gradient, which effectively means it comprises different types of steel and other alloys, can now be produced from the bottom up, which will open up a world of opportunities in terms of making the cars of tomorrow.
A new sensor system, which monitors the seam welds in real time, will also help Audi reduce the use of filler across the board - in a company that sells more than 1.45 million cars a year, every little helps.
Audi is consistently working on the production process to make minor savings and the car manufacturer's constant search for the perfect process could be set to revolutionise welding for the mass market.