Which is Better?
Have you ever needed a welder but were then overwhelmed and confused by all the different welding options? You are not alone.
The question, “Which is my best option: an Orion pulse arc welder, a Dado laser welder, or a full-sized benchtop laser welder?” is frequently a matter of discussion on social media. And it’s also a question every Sunstone micro-welding consultant is asked daily.
Community-generated feedback is excellent because those providing the answers have hands-on experience and can share their testimonials about what they like or dislike, what has previously worked or failed, and what they would recommend based on their needs and experiences. However, because their experiences are unique to them and may not match your needs, I will provide information on the option’s advantages and capabilities.
The short answer to the question is “It depends.” Both pulse arc and laser welders can achieve very similar results. But the technologies work in very different ways. Here’s how:
What Is Pulse Arc Welding?
Pulse arc welding consists of a negative-charged tungsten electrode and a positive-charged grounding clip. The workpiece is connected to the positive-charged clip. Next, the welding process consists of the following steps or events:
Gas It Up.
Shielding gas, such as Argon, is applied just before the ignition of the welding process. Argon protects the molten weld joint from exposure to damaging gasses, such as oxygen, and acts as an electron carrier during the welding process.
Energy is released from the welder and travels to the tip of the tungsten electrode.
Many pulse arc welders retract the welding electrode at this point in the welding process to create a gap between the electrode and the workpiece.
Light It Up.
The energy reaches the tip of the electrode and then arcs or ‘jumps’ to the ‘grounded’ workpiece. The arc emits a bright flash, and the energy hits the workpiece with enough concentrated thermal energy to melt the metal.
As the energy runs out, the arc extinguishes, and the weld pool settles and solidifies. The Argon gas stops flowing, and the electrode returns to its normal position.
The key advantages and unique features of pulse arc welding are:
- Welding on conductive metals such as silver and copper
- Deeper and stronger weld penetration
- Lower initial investment costs
- Cheaper maintenance
- Smaller size
What Is Laser Welding?
Laser welders operate in a very different manner. Welders are created using a flash lamp, a neodymium (Nd) dipped crystal, some mirrors, and some focusing optics. The laser welding process consists of the following steps or events:
The flash lamp (light bulb) is briefly turned on, and the light bounces around until it enters the neodymium-dipped crystal.
The crystal redirects the light and creates a fully collimated or parallel beam of light.
The collimated light leaves the crystal and passes through mirrors and lenses that cause the light to converge at a single spot. The impact of the collimated and converging light on the surface of a workpiece hits with enough force to heat the metal and change it from a solid state to a liquid form.
The most critical parameters on a laser welder are the welding power, weld length, and spot size diameter. By fine-tuning these three parameters, it allows operators to create ideal welds for all their applications.
The key advantages or unique features of laser welders are:
- Faster weld repetitions
- Contactless, no grounding clips, or electrodes
- Spot size is controlled independently from weld energy
Summarizing the Pulse Arc vs Laser Welding Question
After presenting the strengths and unique features of both technologies, I want to propose that we alter the original question of “which is better” and instead replace it with questions like “Would my workpiece benefit more from arc welding or laser welding?” or, better yet, “How can I benefit from investing in both technologies and maximizing my welding capabilities? Which common jobs could I speed up or simplify if I had a laser welder, and which welder could improve jobs with using pulse arc welding?”
Perhaps you can find strategic arguments for both technologies. You may be able to get by with just one welder and make it work, but using by only using one welder, you may be losing out on the benefits of using a welder that is better suited for each particular job.