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nLight expands in Europe with Plasmo acquisition

14 Feb 2022

Fiber laser firm has previously collaborated with provider of monitoring equipment for welding and additive processes.

nLight, the Nasdaq-listed semiconductor and fiber laser manufacturer, has expanded its European operation with the acquisition of the Vienna-based process monitoring firm Plasmo Industrietechnik.

The move extends nLight’s industrial offerings into automated quality assurance, where Plasmo has made inroads into the automotive sector with camera-based monitoring of weld seams and battery production for electric vehicles.

“Plasmo’s innovative quality assurance solutions empower customers to implement robust, efficient, and cost-optimized production processes,” nLight announced, adding that the products are driven by proprietary machine vision and analysis software.

nLight sees the addition as one that will complement its laser portfolio, and strengthen the firm’s position as an enabler of next-generation manufacturing techniques.

Laser combination
The Camas, Washington, company’s general manager for industrial lasers, Jake Bell, said: “Plasmo is a technology leader in process monitoring and quality assurance systems for laser-based manufacturing processes.

“Combining lasers with Plasmo’s real-time process monitoring solutions provides customers with a significant advantage as they develop, qualify and produce increasingly complex laser-printed or welded parts, particularly for high-volume electric vehicle production.”

Spun out of Seibersdorf Laboratories back in 1998, Plasmo has extensive experience in the automotive sector, having worked with both Volkswagen and Audi since 2003.

Since then the company has developed a series of camera-based machine vision products, utilizing both the visible and infrared spectral range, and established an office in Stuttgart, Germany.

Key products for the automotive sector include Plasmo’s optical seam inspection system for laser brazing, used to check the quality of roof seams, rear trunk lids and water channels in vehicles.

Robot brazing
The company points out that the equipment is designed especially for seams brazed by robots, as there are not enough trained employees available to carry out visual inspections of each seam.

“To monitor and optimize laser brazing or laser welding seams, the Plasmo ‘profileobserver’ offers the perfect solution,” claims the firm on its web site. “The system recognizes, captures, analyzes and documents the seams as well as geometry and surface.

“Through the use of an optical seam inspection system, it is possible to detect existing defects in the seam quickly to minimize cost and optimize the production process.”

2015 saw Plasmo launch new quality assurance systems for laser additive manufacturing, and a collaboration with 3D metal printing equipment firm EOS soon followed.

For additive manufacturing applications, Plasmo offers a range of products including the ‘processobserver’ and ‘plasmoeye’.

“The processobserver records [light] in the visible and near-infrared range and thus enables the detection of errors or deviations,” Plasmo says, adding that near-infrared cameras monitor temperature distribution and cooling in the solidified area to evaluate part quality. As a result, closed-loop control is possible using feedback provided by the recorded infrared spectrum.

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