Lasers and manufacturing

Lasers are employed across the manufacturing industry as tools capable of delivering intense cutting or welding power with high precision. Their ability to manipulate and transform materials makes them ideal for the automobile, computer and clothing industries - to name but a few. In fact, it is difficult to find a modern consumer product that has not seen a laser during its manufacturing.

You can find out more about how STFC works with industry.

Lasers are employed across the manufacturing industry as tools capable of delivering intense cutting or welding power with high precision. Their ability to manipulate and transform materials makes them ideal for the automobile, computer and clothing industries - to name but a few. In fact, it is difficult to find a modern consumer product that has not seen a laser during its manufacturing.

You can find out more about how STFC works with industry.

Key facts

How are lasers used in manufacturing

  • Laser cutting
  • Laser marking and engraving
  • Laser welding
  • Laser drilling
  • Laser melting
  • Laser heat treating
  • Laser micromachining
  • Laser soldering
  • Laser surface treatment

Building a car with lasers

Innovative, high power lasers have been utilised by the automotive industry since the early 1980s.

Today, almost every modern vehicle will have had various encounters with lasers during its manufacturing – from cutting the airbag cloth, door lining and keys to welding the body shell, annealing door springs and marking tyres; lasers are absolutely essential tools in modern automobile production.

 

Lasers and semiconductors

The manufacturing of semiconductors requires the rapid, clean cutting of composite materials. Lasers fit this role perfectly. Their ability to cut irregular shapes to high precision, whilst minimising surface roughness, makes them ideal cutting tools.

Lasers are also used extensively to mark metals, polymers, silicon wafers and printed circuit boards, aiding their traceability during the manufacturing process. These miniature, machine readable identification marks can be inscribed at speeds of more than 1000 characters per second!

 

Lasers and packaging

Scribing, perforating and marking represent areas where lasers are employed in the packaging industry.

Some specific uses include the selective weakening of individual packaging layers, providing an ‘easy to open’ solution, and the puncturing of tiny holes such as those found in bags of vegetables on supermarket shelves.

These help to create ideal atmospheric conditions within the product, allowing perishable food to ‘breathe’ and last longer.

 

Paint stripping

Mobile, large-area laser beams can be deployed to remove paint and contaminants from objects such as aircraft and ships. These lasers are carefully tuned to maximise beam absorption by the contaminant or paint – to give a clean, stripped surface.

Because the laser beams have only a minimal impact on the subsurface (usually metal, plastic or ceramic), little residue is left behind. Laser stripping is often a cleaner, more efficient option to previous chemical removal techniques.

 

Laser coding

Industrial laser marking is used extensively across the food and beverage manufacturing industry for marking numerical codes, barcodes, logos and symbols onto materials including inked paper, glass, plastic and metals.

Intense laser beams can be deployed to remove small amounts of material from the surfaces of packaging and also to melt and modify such surfaces with speed and accuracy.

These techniques have numerous benefits, including faster production line speeds and high-quality marking with an enhanced resistance to extremes of temperature and humidity.

 

Quality control

By shining lasers beams onto ball bearings and measuring the dispersion of the laser light reflected back, their sphericity (or roundness) can be determined. This proves an efficient tool in managing quality control.

 

Consumer technologies

  • Laser light shows
  • Laser pointers
  • Laser printers
  • Laser tag
  • Laser pocket projectors
  • Games consoles
  • Laser TVs
  • CD players
  • DVD players

Lasers home

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000