Laser welding is one of the main technologies which have made it possible for the industry to produce compact, weight-optimized components for energy-efficient vehicles. Similarly, transmission manufacturing cannot be done without high-tech laser welding. The joining of the control gear and clutch body using a laser welding process forms the basis of a more compact and efficient gearbox. With almost 150 years of experience in engineering and innovation, the EMAG Group and its expertise in machining and laser welding technology is recognized as an indispensable partner in the automotive industry. “The strength of EMAG is the direct access to the broad array of basic machining technologies that we cover, and the extensive process know-how accumulated over the years,” says Dr. Andreas Mootz, CEO EMAG Automation. “EMAG sets the technological standards for many world-class machining applications.
Permanent innovation is our answer and the key to our future. We are constantly investigating solutions for new components and ways to further optimize our machining platforms. We have several products in the pipeline that will be released soon. Besides developing our products, we endeavor to reduce our production costs to the benefit of our customers,” he says. Founded in Bautzen, Saxony in 1867 as an iron foundry and engineering works, the company is responsible for a number of world firsts. In 1992, EMAG developed the first vertical pick-up turning machine with a work spindle that traverses the main axes whilst the tooling systems are fixed. Since then, the machines have developed into multi-functional production centers that can also be used for drilling, milling, grinding, gear cutting and associated processes In June 1998 EMAG introduced the VSC DS Turning and Grinding Center with an innovative combination of hard turning and finishing grinding technology. The acquisition of NAXOSUNION, a leading manufacturer of crankshaft grinders followed in 2002. The introduction of LaserTec laser welding machines, as well as the 2009 addition of ECM (Electro Chemical Machining) processes extended its technological range. For many years EMAG has aimed to be a single source of all machining processes and technologies that can be applied to round and “not so round” work pieces including ready-to-install components.
Many of these work pieces are assembled and laser welded once the metal cutting process has been completed. With EMAG LASER TEC as a member of the Group since 2003, it has been able to offer complete manufacturing solutions, from combined metal cutting processes to laser-welded, ready-toinstall component assemblies.
Automotive Industries asked Dr. Mootz what were the guiding principles when developing the EMAG ELC laser welding line of products for the automotive industry.
Mootz: When we started our LaserTec business, it was clear that the result of our development work had to be a true EMAG machine – reliable, precise and highly productive because this is EMAG’s reputation in the industry. ELCs are machines intended for high volume production. If you look at any ELC, you’ll find some common design elements such as the “fixed head/moving workpiece” principle resulting in a very reliable beam delivery system as well as improved laser safety and other advantages. Beside this, you’ll find best in class work holding solutions or unique features like our automatic changeover system on the ELC160. All this is accompanied by our broad range of automation solutions.
AI: What are some of the reasons why laser welding is becoming a must for the automotive manufacturing process these days?
Mootz: It is an enabling technology. There are many car components, especially in the powertrain, which are hard to imagine without laser welding. If you look at a state-of-the-art double clutch transmission, you’ll find up to 20 welded joints. If you look at the diff on a premium car rear axle, you’ll find a welded diff/ring gear. This operation is not possible with any other welding process.
AI: What kind of R&D does EMAG do with regards to laser welding and what have some of the consequent product breakthroughs been?
Mootz: First of all, we trust in our knowledge about machine tools and production systems. Next, we focus on a limited number of work pieces/applications. We ask the question, “what is needed to produce a part in the best way, and what is the most economically viable way to do so?” In the next step, we try to use our toolbox of technologies and machines together with work holding and automation know-how to design a competitive solution. As a result we have many happy customers on our reference list.
AI: Give us some examples of how your laser welding solutions have impacted an automotive manufacturer.
Mootz: One example is our diff case/ring gear process. Welded diffs offer a massive weight reduction and thus better CO2 efficiency. You find them in many vehicles, and most of them are made on EMAG equipment. This is a relatively new application with some very special demands. Therefore, most customers require massive support to adapt their part design and to develop the process. We try to support this and offer our demo machines for test welds. As a result, we host many OEMs and tiers in our Heubach facility.
AI: How big is the laser welding become in emerging markets and how do you see these markets evolving?
Mootz: As automotive part production goes to emerging countries, laser welding goes there too. Today, we have installations all over the world. In terms of technology, there are no differences between highly industrialized or emerging countries. Today, the difference is more on the system side, e.g. part handling, process integration, quality monitoring/inspection. Our customers in the industrialized countries are looking for true production lines and we expect this to be a trend in the emerging markets as well.
AI: What are some of the new laser tech products that will be launched by EMAG over the next 12 months?
Mootz: You will have to visit the EMO in Hannover next autumn to find out!