TRM Supplies install 40 fibre laser welders in the last 14 months

Advancements in laser welding have made hand-held laser welding viable for businesses in ways that were not possible before.

A few years ago TRM Supplies recognised the potential of the fibre laser welder and began importing the Hugong HGLW fibre laser welders, which are available in 1kW, 1.5kW and 2kW power source and have a maximum thickness weld of 8mm. The machines are a compact design and are fully assembled before shipment.

We asked Thys de Villiers, Sales Manager of TRM Supplies why the company has been so successful in the metalworking market. TRM Supplies recently passed the sales mark of 40 fibre lasers.

“Besides offering an extra finishing fabricating service, once you have cut, punched or bent sheet for a client you can now offer a welding service. It is quick and easy to use, faster than the traditional welding processes and the finish is better.”

“For years, manufacturers across the industry have used traditional welding techniques like MIG or TIG. But along the way, these traditional techniques have created constraints,” said Thys de Villiers, Sales Manager of TRM Supplies.

Advancements in laser welding have made hand-held laser welding viable for businesses in ways that were not possible before

“TIG welding, for example, is a time-consuming, two-handed welding method that requires an experienced, highly skilled operator. It generates extreme heat that deforms thin materials, has difficulty welding copper, and is limited when welding metals of different thicknesses,” continued de Villiers.

“Meanwhile, MIG welding requires a consumable wire, material precleaning, and bevelled joints for full-penetration welds on thick materials. Travel and work angles are limited, and vertical positions can be challenging.”

“With the industry constantly changing, manufacturers are looking for new ways to stay competitive. They’ve come to realise this requires cost reductions, efficiency gains, and repeatable part quality. There’s also a new challenge: Enabling new welders to be productive in a timely manner without sacrificing quality.”

“This is why more manufacturers are switching to newer welding methods, such as hand-held laser welding, which can increase welding speeds up to four times faster than MIG and TIG welding, to improve productivity and precision.”

What are the benefits of laser welding?
“For years, lasers were seen more as scientific instruments than industrial tools, mainly due to the traditional use of optical elements and mirrors requiring careful alignment and handling.”

“Pioneered in the 1990s by IPG Photonics, fibre lasers were introduced to the market for industrial applications. These laser sources are entirely solid state. The simplicity of the fibre laser accounts for its efficiency, compactness, robustness, and low cost, which drive its success in the industrial applications. Compared to legacy laser systems, fibre technology provides higher output powers and a quality beam at a lower cost with minimal maintenance required.”

“Laser technology improvements have made laser welding an increasingly popular technique in industries where high weld strength and repeatable weld quality are important. The quality and brilliance of fibre laser light precisely controls material heat input, which allows for welding thin materials. Lasers are not limited just to steels; they also can weld aluminium and copper. Even bimetallic welding is a practical reality.”

“Fibre technology simplifies beam delivery technology, opening up even more opportunities for process improvements. Modern beam delivery technology such as wobble welding, where the beam oscillates back and forth, allows for the stabilisation of the melt pool, enhancing the process window (the ranges of weld parameters) and minimising poor or variable part fit-up (within limits). In many cases, this eliminates the need for postprocess grinding, reducing labour costs.”

TRM Supplies staff celebrate that the company has installed 40 fibre laser welders in the last 14 months

“Laser welding also can be automated for high-productivity, high-yield manufacturing. Its high-precision accuracy allows for joining small parts with low heat input and minimal distortion.”

“In the beginning, the price limited its potential and was a barrier to entry. In industrial applications, lasers were expensive, required periodic refurbishment, and were used only on high-value parts, typically integrated to a robot or a dedicated laser workstation.”

“These early lasers consumed significantly more power than modern fibre lasers, which now offer up to 50% wall plug efficiency. This offers cost savings on the bottom line. This efficiency also may eliminate the need for chillers, making laser technology more portable than ever before. Finally, when compared to traditional manual MIG and TIG welding, laser welding is typically faster, improving production output and boosting profits.”

“By consistently driving down the cost of the laser source, improving the quality of light, and offering unique beam delivery options, laser manufacturers now can offer systems with a higher value proposition, making them more accessible and no longer reserved for premium applications.”

How does hand-held laser welding work?
“Economical laser sources combined with the flexibility of fibre laser delivery provide unprecedented access to hand-held laser welding.”

“But how does it work? In simple terms, the laser power density melts the metal, eliminating the need to strike an arc. The wobble function eliminates the need to weave the bead manually and in many cases wire feed is eliminated completely. The high-power density results in a smaller, more controlled weld pool. With precise control of laser parameters, heat distortion effects are reduced, making the process accessible to unskilled operators and allowing organisations to upskill their seasoned employees to more value-added roles.”

“Equipment reliability was at one time a concern with hand-held laser welding. The building block of the fibre laser is the single-emitter diode, which has a lifetime an order of magnitude longer than the lifetimes of diode array or bar-stack alternatives. The pumps are hermetically sealed to telecom standards and are unaffected by humidity, dust, vibration, and the most aggressive industrial environments.”

“With hand-held laser welding’s industrial robustness, fibre lasers can be used to complement basic factory automation, further improving efficiency in production. With the relatively recent explosion in collaborative robot technology (cobots), basic levels of factory automation are within reach of many production floors. Cobots are inherently synergistic with hand-held laser welding technology because they are cost effective and simple to use and deploy. The robot’s flexibility combined with the capabilities of hand-held laser welding technology make it suitable for lower-volume, high-product-mix environments. If it can be welded by hand, it likely can be welded with a cobot. This can further improve laser welding productivity by allowing you to preload a part fixture while the cobot performs a weld on a separate fixture.”

Do I need to be a laser expert to run a hand-held laser?
“Not at all. Hand-held laser welding systems are typically provided with presets for common material types and thicknesses. Simple controls allow you to select the correct preset by choosing the material type and thickness from a table and setting the controls to the identified settings. In the case of a cobot integration, the cobot can be configured to select the correct settings automatically for the project at hand.”

What else can I do with my hand-held laser?
“Depending on the system, hand-held laser welding is available in configurations enabling up to 6mm, full-penetration welds. Furthermore, some system configurations can also be used for part cleaning. This can be beneficial in part preparation to remove any residual oils or debris from the workpiece. A hand-held laser’s cleaning capability also can be used to prevent corrosion and passivate the material after welding.”

“If you’re looking to reduce your costs, improve weld quality, and simplify the weld process, hand-held laser welding will give you the best path to both success and improved profitability, all while allowing someone with no professional welding experience to weld like a pro.”

For further details contact TRM Supplies on TEL 011 974 7744 or visit