From contract processing to building custom systems

Erlangen, Germany - Erlanger Lasertechnik GmbH (www.erlas.de), is a six-year-old spin-off from the Bavarian Laser Center where its Managing Director, Dr. Peter Hoffman, built a reputation in industrial laser materials processing. Today this company, with 45 employees, does € 5.6 million a year specializing as a laser job shop, a builder of special laser processing systems, and laser process engineering.

The company’s job shop facility operates four TRUMPF CO2 lasers ranging in power from 4 to 6 kW-three integrated to multi-axis gantry style systems and one three-axis laser flat sheet cutter. It also runs two TRUMPF CW Nd:YAG lasers coupled through flexible fiber optics to robots in three processing cells and two high-power diode lasers for brazing studies and prototyping work.

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In the area of special machines the company has built eight units to date, concentrating its expertise on unique material handling and software resolutions for tight specification applications. For example, it built an auto gear welder for SKF GmbH that uses a 4kW TRUMPF CO2 to weld figure-eight or spectacle-shape welds in gears destined for the VW Golf and Audi models.

The company also responded to a very tight weld seam application for joining aluminum housing for a Siemens cell phone that was assembled at Chi Ching in Zhi Hai, China. This was an interesting application in that Siemens changed the design to meet competition after about 18 months of operation. The Erlas system however met the seam weld conditions, which called for less than 0.05 mm weld bead build up. Chi Ching ran off more than 70,000 welds with a better than 90 percent uptime of the laser.

The company has a history in laser brazing developments, a technology that the auto industry has responded to because it offers designers an option when faced with joining difficult contours. Erlas founders had experience with laser brazing at the Bavarian Laser Centre where they worked on an application for brazing the joint from the C-pillar to the rear fender on the Audi TT. At Erlas they developed a system to laser braze the complicated 1450mm-long joint that makes up the license plate section of the tailgate for the 2004 Mercedes E-Class wagon shown here and in the cover photo. This is flux-free brazing using copper wire deposited at up to 5 m/min (average 2.5 m/min) using a Nd:YAG laser for power. The Erlas system comprises a Kuka robot that carries and positions an Erlas Janus diode laser brazing head with seam tracking and process monitoring. Another system for a similar application on the Opel Vectra has been in operation for more than a year. The Erlas system is also installed for the production of the brand new 3 series BMW trunk lids built in Germany and in South Africa.

Late last year the company integrated a 6kW CO2 laser system on a lightweight automobile wheel production line at BBS (Schiltach, Germany) to weld aluminum wheels with diameters up to 500 mm. It also is about to install, at Krones AG, a welding system that is the largest order in the company’s history. This Nd:YAG-laser-based unit welds circular stainless-steel manifolds, with diameter up to 7 meters, for the food industry. -DAB

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