Cambridge Vacuum Engineering delivers its first laser-welding system, powered by Trumpf technology

1 min read

​Cambridge Vacuum Engineering (CVE), a specialist in the design and manufacture of electron beam welding (EBW) machines, has built its very first laser-welding system. Now installed at an important customer in the automotive sector, the machine relies on a Trumpf TruDisk 1000, a 1 kW solid-state laser with optimised beam quality for welding metals, in this case steel and Inconel.

With its roots in the late 1950s, the company’s focus has been on EBW and vacuum furnaces, largely in support of aero-engine manufacture. Today the ISO9001-accredited company has circa 70 employees and is supported by facilities in the US and China.

Says Steve Horrex, sales director at CVE: “In recent years we’ve been supplying a lot more machines to automotive customers, some of which are beginning to make enquiries about EBW alternatives. Traditionally, EBW works in a vacuum, which is great from a process quality perspective, but vacuum generation and maintenance is sometimes seen as burdensome. For this reason, laser welding is gaining attention in certain applications, as it can operate using nothing more than a shield gas.”

The Trumpf-powered machine is being used by a Tier one automotive supplier to weld small (approximately 50 mm long) steel and Inconel parts together in reasonably high volumes.

“In this particular application, the join quality produced by laser welding with a shield gas was perfectly adequate,” explains Horrex. “Trumpf was chosen for its track record in the automotive sector and its reputation for quality engineering. The customer’s R&D centre also had a Trumpf system, which definitely helped steer the purchase decision.”

He continues: “Trumpf turned out to be a good choice for the laser – we were particularly impressed with the expertise of their engineering team, which made the integration of the TruDisk 1000 with our system very smooth. As we were fairly new to the laser business, it was good to find a partner with whom we could build trust. Following the successful installation and commissioning of the laser-welding machine, we’re now quoting additional systems for the same customer, as well as machines for other clients. The Trumpf laser has been a really good stepping stone to a new revenue stream.”

Alongside machine reliability, traceability is vital to CVE’s customer. The laser-welding system is required to provide full traceability of all weld parameters and process details. This data is then shared with the end user’s MES (manufacturing execution system). With the TruDisk 1000, the extensive data captured by the laser’s intelligent sensors mean that all important parameters can be monitored reliably, in line with Industry 4.0 practices.

“Moving forward, the end user is looking to introduce further new parts to the laser-welding machine,” says Horrex. “The tooling, workholding and automation that we devised facilitates rapid component changeover, thus future-proofing the system.”