Gentex Corp., which specializes in making military helmets and other products that use polycarbonate, has developed a process called Clearweld for laser welding of clear or colored plastics with no particulates or visible color changes.
Gentex developed the technology when it made PC helmet visors that protect a pilot's eyes from laser-beam attack by absorbing the laser into the visor. The Welding Institute, which was working on ways to laser weld clear plastics, contacted Gentex because of its expertise in PC fabricating and the absorption materials.
A thin layer of the proprietary material is applied at the junction of two pieces of plastic. The laser-absorbing material focuses the laser, creating very localized heat that instantly makes the weld.
Gentex of Carbondale, Pa., has exclusive rights to commercialize the process worldwide. The company is marketing Clearweld to other markets, such as electronics, medical, automotive, consumer products and packaging.
Gentex said laser welding compares favorably with other joining methods, such as hot-plate and ultrasonic welding, but it accommodates preassembly and high welding speets, permits three-dimensional contour joints and allows rapid product changeover.
Initially, the company is focusing on formulating Clearweld materials for application through inkjet printing and liquid dispensing.
Gentex introduced Clearweld during the Medical Design & Manufacturing show, held in Anaheim, Calif., in February. A patent is pending.
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