Zhang Yi, Hunan University: The realization of intelligent laser welding will bring greater explosiveness to the market

In recent years, laser welding has ushered in rapid development and is considered to be "the next explosive point of laser technology after cutting applications." However, laser welding has a relatively low market share due to more complex application scenarios, higher technical thresholds, and relatively high application costs. It is currently mainly used in high-end manufacturing fields such as automobiles, batteries, precision metal components, and optical communications. In addition, the number of companies operating laser welding business is relatively small, with only a few well-known companies such as Han's Laser, United Winners, HGLaser, and Yifi Laser.


Why is the market size of laser welding not easy to expand? In which directions should laser welding make breakthroughs in the future? What is the development prospect of the laser welding market?


Regarding this issue, "Laser Manufacture News" had an exclusive dialogue with Professor Zhang Yi, deputy dean of the School of Mechanical and Transportation Engineering of Hunan University, which also brought different enlightenment and thinking to our laser industry.


Hi, Professor Zhang! Thank you for accepting our "Laser Manufacturing News" interview. First of all, please introduce yourself and introduce your research field.


Professor Zhang: It’s my pleasure to accept "Laser Manufacturing News" interview. I am Zhang Yi from the School of Mechanical and Transportation Engineering of Hunan University. My research field is about high-end intelligent laser manufacturing technology and equipment, including laser cutting, laser welding, laser 3D printing and laser micro-nano manufacturing, mainly for laser manufacturing The technology, process monitoring and control, equipment development and other related work.


The cutting market has developed nearly 30 billion, but welding is less than 10 billion. Why is the market size of laser welding not easy to expand?


Professor Zhang: This is a good question. I think the reason why the cutting market has such a rapid development in a relatively short period of time and the cutting market can go from traditional gas cutting to wire cutting to laser cutting , and it has grown to a market size of 30 billion. The main reason is that the current laser cutting equipment can be standardized.


The biggest advantage of standardization is that it reduces the cost of a single device, and the cost reduction is conducive to market replacement and update. In addition, the involvement of more and more laser companies can form a huge market scale, and promote rapid market growth, also make the threshold in this field relatively low,


Where is the main problem of laser welding?


Compared with cutting, welding is a multi-variety, small-batch manufacturing technology. Maybe a certain part only needs to be welded one, or two or three. If it is made into a standard machine, it is difficult to apply to these parts. And the requirements for equipment flexibility are very high.


I think there are two solutions to this problem: One is to develop a flexible welding fixture. If flexible fixtures can be developed, then the flexibility of welding equipment can be achieved; the second is the combination of laser welding and intelligent manufacturing. If smart laser welding technology is developed, I believe that the development speed of smart welding equipment may be faster than that of laser cutting, and it may be able to move to a larger market in the future.


At present, many welding automation equipment does not realize true intelligence. What is called intelligence refers to whether the equipment can automatically programme the welding path when welding one or two small products, and can realize adaptive process quality monitoring and control. This requires the joint efforts of our academia and industry to solve these problems.


Automobiles, rail cars, aerospace, etc. are the most important applications currently in terms of high-power laser welding. What else might be available in the future?


Professor Zhang: I think the prospect of laser welding application is great, and our country's welding equipment may have a market size of tens of billions.


At present, the welding field is mainly dominated by manual arc welding, and the market share accounts for more than 50%. Laser welding can completely replace this part in the future. If so, we must return to the question we talked about above: to truly realize intelligence laser welding.


At present, various equipment manufacturing fields are talking about intelligent manufacturing. The fastest and most promising one in intelligent manufacturing equipment is laser welding. Perhaps in the next few years, our country will be able to make completely intelligent laser welding processes and equipment. , I believe this market is still very large.


Your research also involves laser micro-nano processing. What is the room for development?


Professor Zhang: Laser micro-nano manufacturing should be the fastest-developing technology since the laser processing technology appeared. Micro-nano processing technology was only in academic research 5 or 10 years ago, and its application in the industry is relatively small.


With the advancement of optical device products and the localization of ultrafast lasers in recent years, laser micro-nano manufacturing has developed rapidly, especially the vigorous development of domestic equipment has made this technology more and more closely integrated with the industry. Micro-nano processing technology is gradually moving towards market applications, such as laser cutting and perforation of hard and brittle materials and so on.


As far as I know, a laser processing equipment company's cutting business on a mobile phone glass screen has an order of more than one billion, which shows that the laser micro-nano processing market has a huge development prospect.


Based on your current observation and understanding of the laser industry, how do you view the potential of the laser application market?


Professor Zhang: I have been engaged in laser processing research for more than 20 years, and I have a heartfelt love for scientific research in this field. With the development of laser technology, the laser processing industry continues to prosper and flourish, which is mainly reflected in several aspects:


The first is that the academic circles are getting more and more in-depth research on laser processing, and the understanding of the mechanism is getting more and more thorough. For example, at the beginning we have a simple understanding of conventional laser oxygen cutting, melting cutting, vaporization cutting, etc., to the present, we do the research about ultra-fast laser invisible Research on the mechanism of cutting, etc.. With the in-depth understanding and research of the laser processing mechanism, we will have a deeper understanding of the processing technology, which is conducive to further expanding its application scope.


Second, I am very grateful for the contribution of the industry, especially some excellent laser companies in China. They have reduced the cost of laser processing equipment, and the equipment price only accounts for ten percent or even lower of foreign laser processing equipment companies. The application has truly become popular. This is what I feel most gratified as a scientific researcher in the field of laser processing, and it is also the goal I strive to pursue.


Finally, I hope that laser processing technology can be more widely used in our various industries, including in our lives, thank you.

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