The core of future automotive lightweight materials is the joining technology of various material mixes. The type of joining will be essential, particularly in electrified propulsion systems, especially as an improved electrical energy transmission leads to a higher total efficiency of the vehicle. The most evident parts to start the optimization process are the traction battery, the electrical performance modules and the engines. Consequently aluminum plays a very central role for lightweight construction applications. However, the physical-technical requirements of components often require the combination with other materials. Thus the joining of mixed material connections is an essential key technology for many of the current developments, for example in the areas E-Mobility, solar energy and lightweight construction. Due to these advantages mixed material joints are already established in the automotive industry and laser beam remote welding is now a focus technology for mixed material connections. The secret of the laser welding process with mixed materials lies within the different areas of the melting phase diagram depending on the mixing ratio and the cooling down rate. According to that areas with unwanted, prim, intermetallic phases arise in the fusion zone. Therefore, laser welding of mixed material connections can currently only be used with additional filler in the automotive industry.
The extremely good focusability of thin disk lasers provides many advantages regarding the process as well as system aspects. Using commercially achievable devices up to 6 kW, considerable improvements in welding performance are demonstrated. At very small spot diameters, it was found that, in addition to the spot diameter itself, the divergence angle of the focussed beam is deciding for the seam shape.
Thin disc lasers represent a new class of welding lasers in that they combine the beneficial characteristics of CO<sub>2</sub>- and Nd:YAG-lasers. Their good focusability--values of M<sup>2</sup> around 20 are typical for devices in the multi kW power range--can be utilized in several ways to improve the welding performance: compared to lamp-pumped Nd:YAG-lasers, the laser power required at the threshold to the deep penetration regime can be reduced, the welding depth can be increased and far higher values of traverse speed are applicable at prescribed welding depths. Alternatively, the high beam quality allows the use of focusing optics with large focal lengths, hence enabling the realization of "remote welding" concepts. At the same time, a wavelength of 1.03 μm (Yb:YAG) provides, in comparison to CO<sub>2</sub>-lasers, a high absorptivity at metallic workpieces and a low sensitivity against plasma production; both effects contribute to the efficiency, stability and achievable quality of the welding process. Further, beam delivery via flexible glass fibers with core diameters of 100 μm to 150 μm is possible. With these features and an overall (plug) efficiency of more than 20 %, this laser offers a large potential for many applications.