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  1. #21
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    I have a chinese *marking* laser - built up from components from one of the reputable (at least relatively) chinese fiber source vendors. It works fine so far (few hours of use.) But it is very much a *commodity* machine. There's nothing terribly new or innovative about it - you could buy machines just like it 10, maybe 20 years ago - just for more money.

    Laser welding for general materials (not mold repair or jewelry) is a much less mature technology. Not really a commodity yet. Hence, maybe better to either wait for it to sort out, or the pay the IPG price....

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    Martin,
    You didn’t mention what aluminum you are welding. I presume a 6000 series. These alloys are generally not happy with autogenous laser welding. They want a 4000 series filler. You will need the wire feeder option. Sounds like you have other jobs that could also help justify a laser purchase. Laser is much more of a precise welder than MIG or TIG, more entertaining as well.
    Ike

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    Hi martin_05:
    I run a 60 watt Rofin Baasel laser welder for micro welding so I have some experience with laser welding in general but not with the size of stuff you're welding.

    Your project is not a good fit for this technology in my opinion, unless you're making gazillions of them and can do all of what it takes to optimize the process, and for large format laser welding it takes a LOT, especially in aluminum.

    Something as simple as shielding the workspace from stray reflections is a major concern, and in North America (thank God) you cannot treat it as cavalierly as you can in some other countries.
    The problem is that aluminum is reflective and the laser pulse is coherent light of a specific wavelength.
    It'll bounce around all over the room, and a stray reflection into your eyeball will burn a nice hole in your retina, so the precautions around laser welding are pretty daunting.
    It'll fuck you over just as thoroughly from 30 feet away as from one foot away.

    I have a glovebox machine and it has more interlocks and safety warnings than a farm dog has fleas.
    This is WAY worse than arc flash from a MIG or TIG machine so no casual screening and no simple welding helmet; for my micro sized work it's fine in the glovebox, but for a 4' by 8' frame...no way.

    A second thing is that you need power to weld aluminum...I cannot consistently make a 0.010" wide weld on my machine unless I run it balls out and that's hard on the flashlamp and the lasing chamber.
    It's the reflectivity that is the problem...too much of the incident pulse is just reflected away, so guys like me do all kinds of workarounds to establish a melt pool and maintain it.
    Most of them consist of finding ways to reduce that reflectivity...acetylene soot is one of my friends, but it contaminates the welds.
    Imagine the mess if you had to soot your frame before you could even try to weld it...it'd be the biggest pig's breakfast you ever saw.

    Another thing is that you need very good fitup if you want to weld without filler wire...I mean really good.
    I specify no more than a 0.002" gap in my joints.
    The problem is that the laser welder makes millisecond duration pulses and makes several per second.
    So each weld spot is a tiny disc where the melt pool was established and then solidified almost instantly.
    This is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from making a stack of dimes with a TIG welder even though the outcome often looks pretty similar.

    If the gap is too big, you don't get one puddle, you get two; one on either side of the joint, with no fusion in between because the pulse duration is so short, the melt pool starts to cool and contract before it can cross the gap.

    So any joint that isn't perfect, needs filler wire.
    The technique is analogous to the laywire technique where you lay the wire into the joint and then melt the whole works together into one blob, relying on the contact of the wire with both sides of the joint to coax the whole works to melt into a single pool.
    But you only get the duration of the pulse to melt everything, so you can't dwell over the puddle to improve the penetration like you can with TIG...you have to put more power into it.
    You also can't delay the filler rod dip to give you time to melt into the base of the joint like you can with TIG so getting good penetration with the laser is not a straightforward process.
    This is a big limitation that only becomes obvious when you test the welds and try to tune the process.

    I looked with some interest at the hype around these portable laser welders when I first encountered them.
    I remain sceptical, knowing what I know about laser welding, even though my domain is completely different from theirs and never having tried to run one of the portable models.

    If I was making these I'd stick with TIG if you want them nice and MIG if nobody really cares how they look.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining
    Last edited by implmex; 05-11-2021 at 11:00 PM.

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    Unless it is part of the specifications, I would avoid interrupted welding. Maybe the nomnal strength of so many 1" welds is enough for the service loads.But if the cross-section of the pieces joined is greater, then the welds will see higher unit stress than the base metal, so as everything elastically deforms you will have shear at the toes of the welds, stress-concentrations is you will, and cracks.
    IME for any kind of dynamic stress, weld cross-section must be equal or greater than that of the members joined

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    Good morning All:
    I was curious, so I dug into the IPG Photonics system a little more and as a result, I need to amend my previous post a bit.

    Turns out the IPG system outputs a continuous wave rather than laser pulses like my system does.
    This means that all of my babble around non-coalescent weld pools does not apply, and the system behaves more like a TIG torch than a very fast spot welder.
    So you can manipulate it like a TIG torch; the fundamental difference is that that the melt is accomplished by a light source rather than a flow of electrons.

    Joint fit up is much less critical because you can sustain the melt pool as long as you need in order to introduce filler wire...just like with TIG.

    However, all I said about laser safety still applies...this is a class 4 laser like all industrial lasers are, and will hurt you or others badly if you are careless with it.
    OSHA will cut you a new asshole if you don't follow the full suite of protocols and end up injuring someone.

    So at a minimum, you need a dedicated room with door interlocks, no windows and only one operator, fully shielded with rated eye protection and an eye examination protocol your company has to follow, along with training and update training, and service records for the machine, and a Laser Safety Officer...those of you who run industrial lasers of any kind for a living will be familiar with all of this

    It's a fair burden just to weld some frames together, and the promo literature on the IPG Photonics website predictably glosses over all that.
    Yeah, it's probably easier to learn than TIG because it doesn't need you to learn arc control before you can make a respectable weld, but I'm still sceptical about just putting it onto your floor as easily as you can put a TIG torch or a MIG gun on your floor.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    Quote Originally Posted by implmex View Post
    So at a minimum, you need a dedicated room with door interlocks, no windows and only one operator, fully shielded with rated eye protection and an eye examination protocol your company has to follow, along with training and update training, and service records for the machine, and a Laser Safety Officer...those of you who run industrial lasers of any kind for a living will be familiar with all of this
    Thanks for your excellent feedback on this. It sure sound like far more than I would want to undertake at the moment for this project. Not having a high power laser "culture" at the shop right now sounds like a guaranteed formula for disaster. Nobody is interested in that.

    I talked to Miller about their MIG options for aluminum. It seems that the hot ticket for this project (my older MIG's would require a spool gun that that's not an option for a few reasons) might be a 255 with a push-pull gun and the u-groove rollers. That's about $7K, maybe closer to $8K by the time you have it rolling on a cart ready to go with accessories, spares, etc.

    Now I have to decide if I pay someone to weld the prototypes for me and buy the welding gear if we get the larger contract or just go for it, buy the welder, do the protos and if we don't get the contract we'll be ready for the next aluminum welding job. Hmmm.

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    Hi martin_05
    You wrote:
    "Now I have to decide if I pay someone to weld the prototypes for me and buy the welding gear if we get the larger contract or just go for it, buy the welder, do the protos and if we don't get the contract we'll be ready for the next aluminum welding job. Hmmm."

    Do you have good welders on staff experienced with welding aluminum?
    It takes a good bit of time and effort to learn to do this kind of work on this material to a high standard.
    If you hack the shit out of the prototypes and they look like an old rat chewed on them, will you still expect to get the contract?

    If you do have good guys to make these I say get the tool and make the prototypes so you can learn all the GOTCHAS specific to this job before you quote production.
    If you don't I'd be worried about the harm to my reputation if I delivered something substandard and I'd be worried about being able to deliver on a production contract at all.

    Cheers

    Marcus
    Implant Mechanix • Design & Innovation > HOME
    Vancouver Wire EDM -- Wire EDM Machining

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    I would either sub out the welding for the prototypes or rent the welder for a week and learn to do it yourself. I'm sure there is a local welding supplier that has the welder setup as a testing machine.

    I have 2 350p aluminum machines with push pull guns. Man they are sweet. I also have a 350p regular machine.

    I purchased the plain 350 and a push pull gun for it first so if the large alum job was a 1 time thing, it still worked for steel and stainless. It worked ok, but it has nothing on the 350p aluminum. The controls and nice welds are so much nicer.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bondo View Post
    I would either sub out the welding for the prototypes or rent the welder for a week and learn to do it yourself. I'm sure there is a local welding supplier that has the welder setup as a testing machine.

    I have 2 350p aluminum machines with push pull guns. Man they are sweet. I also have a 350p regular machine.

    I purchased the plain 350 and a push pull gun for it first so if the large alum job was a 1 time thing, it still worked for steel and stainless. It worked ok, but it has nothing on the 350p aluminum. The controls and nice welds are so much nicer.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
    that's a good one, lol! rent one and learn to do it in a week!!

    Well, IF you are an experienced aluminum welder, sure, you can get going in a week, no problem, but if all you've done is some squirt welds on steel, (and ill bet that describes the OP), no not so much...

    remember the rule for aluminum, good, fast, cheap, pick two? no, you are lucky if you get one.

    to the OP, sober up and snap out of it, the laser just isn't going to work. there is no free lunch...even at 16K

    if you were old enough, guess you would have sent your 3.99 for the "magic fuel saver magnet" they advertised in the back of popular mechanics (might be a bit harsh, sorry..)

    I still say get a GTAW, understand it will take a year to learn to be reasonably proficient, and you will be set to do various types of work in different materials. that's what a prototype shop does, right? if you spend 7K on a dedicated aluminum setup, well that's great if AL is all you ever have to do, but you are investing a lot in a specific material and process, that sounds like its appropriate to a production shop.

    invest in GTAW, hire someone to do this job if you need to, and learn. cheers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    that's a good one, lol! rent one and learn to do it in a week!!

    Well, IF you are an experienced aluminum welder, sure, you can get going in a week, no problem, but if all you've done is some squirt welds on steel, (and ill bet that describes the OP), no not so much...

    remember the rule for aluminum, good, fast, cheap, pick two? no, you are lucky if you get one.

    to the OP, sober up and snap out of it, the laser just isn't going to work. there is no free lunch...even at 16K

    if you were old enough, guess you would have sent your 3.99 for the "magic fuel saver magnet" they advertised in the back of popular mechanics (might be a bit harsh, sorry..)

    I still say get a GTAW, understand it will take a year to learn to be reasonably proficient, and you will be set to do various types of work in different materials. that's what a prototype shop does, right? if you spend 7K on a dedicated aluminum setup, well that's great if AL is all you ever have to do, but you are investing a lot in a specific material and process, that sounds like its appropriate to a production shop.

    invest in GTAW, hire someone to do this job if you need to, and learn. cheers!

    Unnecessary harshness brother. I get it though. Nothing more fun than to stomping on someone learning the ropes. Hope it was worth a good laugh.

    As it turns out laser welding technology is excellent. What makes it difficult to consider isn't the price but rather the safety issues surrounding it. I do deal with lasers in other applications. We are very careful and have lots of protection in place (including room lockouts, etc.). However, nothing at this power level and nothing being aimed at reflective material without lots of optical filters and shielding around it. In other words, adopting a laser welder, for anyone responsible enough to recognize and want to deal with the dangers, isn't something anyone should take lightly. I can see a proper high power laser welding program requiring six months of preparation and training before deploying at any scale. Not sure these systems are safe for casual use.

    Regarding MIG for aluminum, not scared of it at all. This wouldn't be the first time someone told me something was impossible. These frames are not for aerospace applications. A couple of weeks tops and we should be able to make very nice welds. We'll test pieces to destruction, vibration, etc. no big deal. Thanks for the concern though, I appreciate and understand the perspective.

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    TIG on aluminum isn’t that bad to learn
    The new inverter machines with high frequency ac out put are a game changer.
    Biggest issue is when people try it on dirty or not well fitting stuff,
    Or don’t have enough amps.

    MIG will have some of the same issues might take a bit longer to get everything dialed in.
    Really the same problems you have doing steel really
    to get penetration and not just a nice looking booger on top.

    Both have their place.
    As does stick welding.
    Newer tech doesn’t translate to better for everything.

    You know to the guy who only has a hammer everything looks like a nail

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    Quote Originally Posted by 72bwhite View Post
    The new inverter machines with high frequency ac out put are a game changer.
    That's an interesting point. Our machines are older (15~20 years old). I was talking to a friend with far more welding experience than I have who said that the new 220V inverter machines are a dream compared to what we have.

    He also thought that it is possible that the distinction between the 120V and 220V inverter machines isn't as pronounced any more. I don't have a 120V machine but he said that he has a couple to take on the field and that making good welds with them can be more difficult than with 220V machines. His are older as well. He thinks the new Miller 141 is far easier to use and get product good welds than his 130, so he is thinking about possibly replacing his 130's with 141's. Not suggesting that's what we need, it's something that just came up in the conversation.

    Any thoughts on that? Are high frequency inverter machines that much better or easier to operate is you are reasonably skilled at welding? If so, what is it that makes such a significant difference? In reading about them I saw something about smooth start technology and the welder sensing the process and auto adjusting. Interesting.

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    Oh yes the modern inverters are much easier on ac
    At 60 cycle the arch wanders around as you crank it up the arc stops wandering
    When the arc stops wandering aluminum isn’t much harder than welding stainless.

    Not talking about high frequency start but high freq. ac current

    Umm no you need all the power you can get on aluminum.

    Mind you I’m talking about Miller or Lincoln.
    You can lift my 250 amp box like a suitcase not like the old transformer machines

    Inverters aren’t magical you can’t really get more power out than you put into it.
    Still need 220 if you want real power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 72bwhite View Post
    At 60 cycle the arch wanders around as you crank it up the arc stops wandering
    OK, this prompted me to do some research. A few interesting points I learned:

    • Inverter machines are about 93% efficient, vs about 60% for transformer
    • This translates directly to power and cost savings for production shops
    • They can generate heat faster due to high frequency operation (rather than 120 Hz)
    • They can maintain constant current flow due to electronic controls
    • They can sense the process and auto-adjust operating parameters, leading to consistency
    • Due to their efficiency, 120 V inverter welders can rival entry-level 220 V transformer welders
    • They can use both DC and AC and generate a more stable arc
    • Pulsed MIG can produce results similar to TIG
    • Inverters enable multi-process capabilities
    • Higher duty cycle due to being nearly twice as efficient
    • Welding thin material is easier due to the degree of control
    • Can tailor weld bead profile in software
    • Controlled arc starts and consistent parameters throughout weld cycle


    The main disadvantage most articles seem to list is the potential for higher long term maintenance costs or longevity issues. Not sure how to process that other than to say that the days of keeping something around for thirty years seem to be behind us in almost everything except for pots, pans, forks and knives.

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    Quote Originally Posted by martin_05 View Post
    Unnecessary harshness brother. I get it though. Nothing more fun than to stomping on someone learning the ropes. Hope it was worth a good laugh.
    dude, I said I was sorry already just meant it to be some good natured ribbing, lighten up, or toughen up, haha!

    just sayin' the sales pitch isn't what makes a nice weld. all the "bullet points" on inverters are straight out of the sales lit also, id say don't even consider welding aluminum on 120V unless it is under .040". and NONE of the advantages of inverters changes the basics ( who would even try to weld Al with a 110 transformer unit?).

    get under the helmet and weld. no real shortcuts or magic with aluminum, just sayin

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    You really have to look at the duty cycle at the amps you need.
    1/4 inch aluminum need quite a bit of power.

    There is a guy who has a good series of vision on youtube.
    Jodi. weldingtipsandtricks
    Watch it he will give you pretty much all you need to know
    To get going welding aluminum, well actually stainless and mild steel as well.
    You want to know about TIG welding he is a good start

    No welder has ever said gee I wish I had less power available to me

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    all the "bullet points" on inverters are straight out of the sales lit
    Nope.

    It's the result of making a list from watching real guys with experience talk about the technology on YouTube. It just so happens that the list I extracted from half a dozen of these videos seems to be pretty valid. For example, one guy welded 1/4 steel using both a 120 and 220 V inverter machine and compared them. In this case it was the same machine, he just plugged it into different outlet for each test. They are not the same, but damn, the results were not bad.

    Guys also talked about how much more consistent the arc can be and how the microprocessor controls can help a lot. One guy went as far as saying that with a good inverter machine TIG feels almost as easy as MIG.

    When a machine goes from being 50% efficient (transformer) to 90%+ (inverter), that has to make a difference.

    As it stands right now I am heavily leaning towards buying a Miller Multimatic 220. TIG, MIG, Stick and the versatility of going to 120V if you have no choice. For speed, you can still add a push-pull gun and MIG weld aluminum.

    We have three phase power for our milling machines (HAAS and Bridgeport), so 220 single-phase isn't an issue at all, of course. Just trying to make an informed buying decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 72bwhite View Post
    weldingtipsandtricks
    I watched a bunch of his stuff. That's a good channel.

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    Not sure about the multimatic, no first hand experience
    For some situations ideal machine form what the miller site has up.
    The question to ask are power and duty cycle, and frequency range on the ac out put.

    I have a Dynasty 280 and I would consider it probably adequate for what you
    Described a 400 would be better.
    I have a Lincoln mig might even be the same model you have, they have their uses.
    Started out with a diversion 165 TIG they discontinued that model.
    It was ok for steel or stainless, absolutely sucked when I tried to do aluminum
    Not enough power and no height frequency ac.
    Needed a bigger welder bit the bullet and got the dynasty 280.
    Watched Jodi’s videos and then it was ah man what’s so hard about aluminum.

    I now make stuff out of aluminum by preference.
    Water cooled torch is a must, a good foot petal is a must.
    Now the dynasty has features that you will probably never use.

    Use the basic features power out put ac frequency range.

    The most expensive mistake you can make is buying too small power wise
    Really sucks to weld 5 min wait 45 for it to cool down

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    Inverter TIG welders are awesome and significantly nicer to use than transformers. 220 amps is about the minimum you want for aluminum, on bigger parts the heat wicks away so fast you really need to stomp on it. I'd hate to not have a TIG welder available.

    On the Multimatics- they have a place, but I think it's more in the maintenance/repair type of shop. I like having dedicated machines for MIG and TIG (you can always throw stick leads on any TIG if needed). The duty cycle on those multi type machines always seem to be low at max amperage, like 20%, and for aluminum your going to be running wide open the whole time. For AL getting a puddle going is the hard part, if there isn't a good reason to stich I'd just run the whole way down (hence the duty cycle).

    We have several HTP welders and have been very happy. The oldest is about 8 years old and have seen full time use, with zero issues. Miller, Lincoln and Esab are all solid, but the HTP's are a lot of bang for the buck and don't get much attention.

    My advice- buy a 220v inverter AC/DC TIG welder with full adjustability on pulse and frequency and a high duty cycle, for this job or just to have on hand.

    Edited to add- 72bwhite and I were typing at the same time and he beat me to it, agree on everything.


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