Laser beam welding is a process by which materials are joined by heating them with a laser. It can produce both spot and seam welds. The technique is usually used to join metals, but other materials, including plastics, can also be welded. Although joints using blazing are possible with laser welding, penetration or keyhole welds are more common.
In a laser weld, a beam is directed at the target material. Because the beam is amplified and focused, heat penetration is deep within a small heat-affected zone, creating a high depth-to-width ratio for the weld nugget. The depth of the weld can be controlled by varying the power output of the laser and adjusting the focal point of the beam.
Laser welding offers a number of benefits in the manufacture of medical devices. Welds can be made with a high level of precision, allowing for the creation of ever smaller devices. In contrast to resistance welding, which requires electrodes on each side of the weld, laser welds are done from one side. The ability to create the weld from a greater distance means a beam can perform a weld in cramped spaces that other instruments would have difficulty reaching. Laser welding can also help facilitate repairs to small devices or components without the necessity of disassembling the device. Laser welding can be highly automated through the use of robotic controllers, allowing a large number of precision welds to be created quickly.