K2013: LPKF views plastic welding as a growth market

Laser welding systems supplier LKPK Laser Welding, a part of speciality mechanical engineering group LPKF, expects the growth potential of the sector to increase. The Germany-headquartered firm invested EUR14 million in a new 10,000 sq m building for its production in Fürth, with 2.5 times the capacity, said Holger Aldebert, Senior VP of Sales and Service Laser Welding, speaking at the pre-K preview in July. With a turnover expected to exceed EUR115 million this year, the firm has seen its exports growing, with more than half its turnover exported to Asia (35% to China). "We also have sales and service in China/Hong Kong (with 70-80 service engineers in China as it is important not only to deliver machines but also to take care of machines) and production equipment installed in Malaysia and China."

Since it was set up in 2001, the laser plastic welding department has seen its workforce grow to more than 100 employees. Despite repeated expansions at the current location in Erlangen it was bursting out of its seams, said Aldebert. Production in the new location started in August, with final relocation of all employees to be completed in 2014.

With more than ten years' experience in job shop production, the firm boasts more than 1,000 laser welding processes, 500 turnkey welding systems delivered worldwide and 30 key patents. Aldebert added, "Especially when it comes to demanding joining tasks, laser welding is rapidly replacing conventional processes like bonding or ultrasonic welding, particularly in the automotive, pharmaceutical and consumer sectors. It only needs simple work holding devices, creates visually appealing weld seams and reduces the reject rate during the welding process due to its sophisticated monitoring technologies."

At the K, it will introduce a new clear joining technology (welding without additives) for microfluidics. "This will be introduced on a tried and tested machine concept, which is compact. It sits on rollers and has optimised laser source at 1.94 nm with integrated vision system used for checking microfluidics. The significance of microfluidics is growing due to the increasing number of analysis opportunities." The PrecisionWeld machine can create weld seams with a thickness of 100 microns and has positioning repeatability of 10 microns, by separating the housing from the processing compartment. This design is based on the company’s ProtoLaser systems that have been used in the PCB prototyping sector for many years.

Aldebert also said the clear joining technique, where the laser beam is focused precisely on the welding horizon to apply energy where it is required to create a weld, without needing any special additives, is quite new and the firm has already delivered machines. "There is no need for additional additives, it also reduces costs and problems with the FDA." The firm will also showcase other typical welding systems like the PowerWeld, a standalone machine that caters to 2-3 million parts/year.


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