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Laser hybrid welding of support brackets

03 July 2012

In September 2011 AWL-Techniek received an order from Gestamp Automoción for a welding cell that produces support brackets for a renowned OEM in Spain. Of course a welding cell is nothing unique, however combining laser welding and MAG welding for this kind of product is.

Extensive testing
Before Gestamp placed the order with AWL they did extensive research into what the best technology would be to use for this specific product. They started with only MAG welding. Unfortunately this didn’t pass the test as the welds cracked. They also did some tests with laser welding, which also fell short as the zero-gap tolerance was not being met. They changed the product specifications somewhat and tried to combine the two processes using laser hybrid welding. This was the way to go. Quality was good en welding speeds were excellent.

Gestamp then asked AWL to provide them with a solution containing the laser hybrid technology. AWL’s engineers put forward a proposal combining the handling, the automatic loading of the plate rings and the various welding processes in one machine. This proposal and AWL’s extensive experience with laser welding were the main reasons Gestamp chose AWL to build the machine and the fixtures.

New technology
This is the first time Gestamp will be using a laser welding machine. By integrating this in their production philosophy they are clearly stating they are willing and able to be a leader in the automotive business. Although AWL has lots of experience with laser welding and MAG welding as separate processes and has done many tests and prototyping with laser hybrid welding, this is actually the first time AWL has fitted a real machine with this technology.

Great advantages
Laser hybrid welding is a combination of arc welding and laser welding. Therefore it offers the advantages of laser welding – small, strong welds, high welding speed, small heat affected zone – as well as the advantages of conventional welding – energy costs, favourable gap bridging, filler material - resulting in a high process stability, higher welding speeds, good flow out of the seam flanks, large volume seam and good metallurgical properties. The greater penetration is especially important with thicker plates.

AWL has proven to be a great partner for Gestamp as they have exceeded every expectation, both in the overall concept and in the support. The AWL high safety standards are now fitted as standard for the complete Gestamp Group.

The laser hybrid welding cell will be in full production later this year. It will contain 4 robots and offers a welding speed of 45 mm/s. The machine is able to produce 1,200,000 brackets per year.

About Gestamp Automoción
Gestamp Automoción is an international group dedicated to the design, development and manufacture of metal components and structural systems for the automotive industry. Today Gestamp Automoción is present in 22 countries and has over 95 production centres throughout the world. The company currently has 25,000 employees.