Researchers at one university have rolled out a welding breakthrough that can transform the manufacturing industry. They have effectively fused glass to metal using an ultrafast laser system, a feat previously been impossible because of the difference in thermal properties that would cause the glass to shatter.
FREMONT, CA: Since its manifestation, laser technology has become a fundamental part of numerous industries having a host of applications from functioning as a simple light source to cut through the toughest materials. Researchers at one university have rolled out a welding breakthrough that can transform the manufacturing industry. They have effectively fused glass to metal using an ultrafast laser system, a feat previously been impossible because of the difference in thermal properties that would cause the glass to shatter.
Conventionally, welding has been restricted to materials that share similar thermal properties. The university laser system uses pulses of infrared light, which endure a picosecond (one trillion of a second) when applied in tracks along with the materials for binding them together. Different optical materials such as borosilicate glass, quartz, and even sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel using the laser system.
The sections to be welded are brought in close contact before the laser is focused through the optical material to offer a small and highly intense spot at the interface between two materials. The process creates microplasma inside the material bordered by a highly limited melt region. Researchers have tested welds at -50C to 90C and they remained undamaged showing that they are tough enough to get by with the extreme thermal variations.
Overall, the welding breakthrough could proficiently transform the manufacturing sector by eliminating the need for adhesives, increasing robustness and offering more design elasticity. Additionally, the process can also have direct applications for companies active in the defense and aerospace, healthcare fields, and optical technology. An example where the system is constructive is in providing mechanical coupling between parts in large marine engines like container ships. At present, products and equipment involving metal and glass solutions are often held together by adhesives that are messy to apply and parts can gradually creep or move. Out glassing—organic chemicals from the adhesive can be slowly released and can lead to concentrated product life—is another challenge. Other areas of focus of the research include the development of laser scanning technology, testing of manufactured parts, and testing of diverse laser parameters.