Brose and IPG Photonics to Collaborate on Laser Welding Project

The $6 million effort will look to increase welding efficiency in producing vehicle seats.

(Image courtesy of Brose.)

(Image courtesy of Brose.)

Last week, automotive component producer Brose announced plans to work with fiber laser giant IPG Photonics on developing the world’s first direct weld measurement system for seat rails in cars. IPG Photonics’ in-line coherent imaging (ICI) technology should help reduce both the time and cost of the process whileincreasing overall manufacturing efficiency. The direct weld measurement process will first be tested and refined at Brose’s London, Ontario, plant before being gradually integrated into the company’s facilities across North America and Europe by early 2020.

In-Line Coherent Imaging

Originally pioneered by modifying existing medical imaging devices, ICI uses a secondary measurement beam to precisely and quickly verify the quality of a given weld. The technology allows weld depth and surface uniformity to be checked in real time. “Our patented, in-line welding monitoring tools provide the most comprehensive and direct measurement of key manufacturing characteristics, including weld depth, part fit-up and seam position,” said Trevor Ness, IPG’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. In the case of Brose, the system will replace a dated measurement method that requires an hour-long validation step and brings production to a halt.

Implementation and Projected Impact

Over the next three years, Brose plans to invest $6 million toward further refining the ICI-enabled direct weld measurement process. During the course of the effort, IPG and Brose will both gain access to a trove of data generated by ICI on weld penetration, seam tracking and surface irregularities that both firms can use to further hone the system. Each hopes that this wealth of information can help accelerate improvements in a variety of areasmoving forward.

Though process efficiency gains are the major catalyst for the project, the long-term rewards could extend to safety and quality as well. Once the more sophisticated welding technique is fully integrated, the firms’ customers will benefit from safer, more durable seat rails that can be brought to market more cheaply. Any such gains realized will only be amplified in the years to come. Last year, Brose churned out over 80 million seat rails. By 2024, it expects that count to balloon to 105 million.