Copper Welding with
Blue High-Power Diode Laser

450 nm wavelength and 2000 W laser power (CW) open up new possibilities for the high-quality, spatter-free laser welding of copper and the effective processing of gold and other non-ferrous metals in industrial series production.

Copper, Gold and Other Non-Ferrous Metals

The industrial laser beam sources that were previously available required increased effort to satisfactorily process highly reflective metals, such as copper,in series production. Blue laser light offers new opportunities because copper and gold, above all, absorb the blue light spectrum seven to twenty times better thanlaser radiation in the infrared range (see diagram).

Now, the first high-power diode laser that considerably improves the laser material processing of non-ferrous metals has been developed. Thin foils and sheets, in particular, can be processed much more effectively with the blue laser, but the blue LDM diode laser offers even more advantages, too.

In addition to the high absorption of blue light, which makes it much easier to melt copper, the use of the intensity profile characteristic of diode lasers also contributes to the top-notch processing outcome. Furthermore, Laserline’s proven diode laser technology allows the laser power to be finely graduated within milliseconds, thus adapting it perfectly to the process requirements. The weld seams created during copper welding are extremely clean and very smooth – regardless of the surface quality of the material before the welding process was begun. They have excellent electrical conductivity and produce only a few spatters on adjacent areas of the material. Material efficiency is also particularly high, as the blue laser, on the one hand, does not require any overlap or material reinforcement in the seam area, and on the other hand, liquid copper has a high gap bridgeabilityfor processing with blue laser radiation. The option of controlled heat conduction welding enables copper to be used as the upper joining component when welding different metals, for the first time. Copper powder and thin copper foils can even be joined to other materials, such as steel and aluminum. When it comes to welding foils, considerable results have already been achieved in butt and edge welding.

The total energy consumption required for welding copper has been reduced by 84 percent compared to infrared lasers, and by as much as 92 percent for gold. This is due to the fact that 1 kW is now enough for welding copper and 0.5 kW for welding gold, instead of 10 kW.

For users, the LDM platform provides a familiar and industrially proven system that can be used in conjunction with processing optics optimized for the wavelength. Otherwise, only a few modifications are needed to integrate the laser into production. The sight protection windows of processing cells and protective goggles are the only aspects that have to be replaced, due to the changed wavelength range, in order to meet laser safety requirements for the employees carrying out the work.

Laser Welding Copper

The laser welding of copper has beenrevolutionized by the development of a new blue diode laser. The blue laser beam copper and other non-ferrous metals to undergo high-quality processing within industrial processes.

Copper Laser Welding – The Process

For the first time, the blue laser makes it possible to undertake controlled heat conduction welding of copper and other non-ferrous metals with low material thicknesses: material thicknesses of less than one millimeter are no longer a problem. While thin foils were previously cut, rather than joined, with an infrared laser, the blue laser can now be used to process the material in a targeted and controlled manner. The blue laser beam melts the desired material along the joints, then the liquefied materials flow into each other and form the weld seam when they cool down. This process results in particularly smooth seams that are of outstanding quality and, therefore, highly stable. In principle, the process is the same as with an infrared laser – apart from the wavelength used.

Laser Welding of Copper Pins with a Blue Diode Laser

Laser welding of two copper pins (approx. 0.5x1.5mm²) with 450nm wavelength and 100ms pulse time for electrical applications.

Heat conduction welding with the LDMblue blue diode laser leads to a very stable, homogeneous molten pool without any evaporation. The dominant surface tension of the liquid copper bridges the gaps between the pins, resulting in a homogeneous connection.

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Excellent Results

Initial tests show that the structure of the surface has no influence on the welding process, especially when copper is being processed. No matter whether the copper has previously been finely brushed, oxidized or etched, the positive properties of the seam are retained.

Heat Conduction Welding of Copper with a wavelength of 450nm

Bead on plate weld on a pure copper sheet (0.5mm thickness) with the Laserline LDMblue500-60.

Heat conduction welding with a wavelength of 450 nm and a focus diameter of 600 µm ensures a highly stable molten pool without spatters during the welding process.

Laser: LDMblue 500-60
Copper sheet: 0.5mm
Focus diameter: Ø0.6mm

 

 

 

 

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Journal

About welding copper components

In our series “Diode lasers and their applications”, we offer a regular insight into the most important applications based on diode lasers. And one field of application, in particular, should not be forgotten: copper welding.

But why is this special application so crucial? Copper is one of the most important raw materials for the transmission of electrical signals and, by extension, a key component of many modern technologies. Copper segments can be found everywhere, today: in batteries within mobile devices, in induction coils or in accumulators within electric cars. Often, the components are exposed to a high current, high operating temperatures and strong vibrations. This significantly affects the production process: when components are made of several parts, the joining seams must be highly solid and not create additional resistances in the signal flow, to prevent the component from heating up too much. As brazed joints often lack the required head resistance, weld seams created by lasers are the best option here.

Why blue diode lasers?

However, not every diode laser is the same, nor is every piece of copper the same. This sounds trivial at first, but it is, however, critically important. Why? Because a closer look at the copper components quickly makes the wide spectrum of these components clear: wafer-thin wires are used, as are sheets with thicknesses of several millimeters. This affectsthe kind of welding tool that has to be used. When thin foils have to be joined, low-impact depths and moderate-energy inputs are essential. High intensities would separate the copper foil immediately, but since you need high intensities to fuse copper with the infrared laser, this results in a dilemma. As a consequence,, the infrared diode laser is not suitable for processing filigree copper components; rather, the ideal situation would be to weld with blue diode lasers, as with Laserline’s LDMblue, the world’s first industrial blue laser in the multi-kilowatt range. The reason? Wavelengths in the blue spectrum can be absorbed outstandingly well by copper. With 450 nm, the new LDMblue enables an absorption rate of far above 50 percent to be reached, and in the context of the laser welding of thin non-ferrous metals, this is a quantum leap. A direct comparison with this industry’s typical infrared lasers makes this strikingly clear: an absorption rate of merely 5 percent is attained under identical process conditions for copper welding via IR radiation. As a result,, infrared-based copper welding is only possible with high laser output powers. Additionally, the process is often unstable, leading to welding mistakes occurring – above all, spatters. The blue diode laser makes these problems are a thing of the past. Thanks to the clearly improved absorption, the LDMblue means that a moderate energy input, and by extension,the controlled heat conduction welding of copper, can be made a reality for the first time. Low impact depths and low material vaporizations create homogeneous weld seams without spatters or pore formation.

However, as soon as thicker copper components are to be joined, the blue diode laser reachesits limit:it is only possible to join thick sheets with the deep welding process, a method that is solely possible with very high radiation intensity, due to copper’s good thermal conductivity. Here, the high absorption of the LDMblue does not offer much help: at 1,000 watts, it reaches typical welding penetration depths of 0.6 to 0.7 mm. Higher output powers — LDMblue lasers with up to 2 kW are currently available — improve the welding penetration depth. Since blue diode lasers are more expensive to produce than infrared systems, the process of keyhole welding for copper is currently confronted with the question of economic efficiency. It would be much cheaper to use a traditional infrared laser for this application, but the process disadvantages that have already been mentioned (instability and welding defects)represent hurdles to an efficient welding process here, as well.

A Hybrid concept for deeper welding seams

As a consequence,, Laserline is developing alternative approaches. This has resulted in a completely new hybrid concept that combines both versions of the laser. A special focusing optic is used to merge the beam of a blue diode laser with the beam of a traditional infrared laser. The blue spot with a diameter of 0.6 – 1 mm is overlaid with a smaller infrared spot, enabling the advantages of both methods to be combined. To fuse the workpiece surface, the high absorption rate of the blue diode laser is used to start with. The infrared laser connected to it now opens the vapor capillary and performs the actual deep welding process. During the whole procedure, the LDMblue stays connected and guarantees a calm and stable molten pool, hence offering an innovative approach with astounding levels of success. In terms of welding penetration depth, seam quality and process calmness, the results are, all told, utterly convincing. At welding penetration depths of up to 3 mm, calm molten pools can be created without visible spatters in the seam area and usually without pores, as well. For the lap welding of two copper sheets,plus at the butt-joint, extraordinarily smooth joining seams are created and impurities are nowhere to be found.

Laserline Hybrid Conzept: Blue + IR

Laser copper welding with Hybrid process

Copper Cladding

The initial tests show that with the blue laser, cladding with copper powder is also possible.

Copper Cladding – The Process

The blue laser was also able to convince in the first test runs of deposition welding with copper powder. In this process – also known as laser cladding – the blue laser beam creates a molten pool on the surface of the workpiece. With the aid of a powder nozzle, the copper is added at the same time so that it can be melted in the same beam. After a short cooling time, the workpiece and copper powder are now metallurgically bonded together. In addition, the welding process causes very little distortion and the coating is extremely durable. Here, too, the process is similar to that one of the laser in the infrared wave spectrum. Furthermore, the coating is electrically conductive due to the physical properties of copper.

Cladding with Copper Powder

Particularly good results were already achieved with the blue laser when cladding with copper powder on workpieces made of steel materials. Thanks to the high absorption of the blue laser beam, direct deposition welding of copper powder onto a copper substrate is now possible for the first time. Contact us to learn about more Laser welding copper applications that are possible.


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