Handheld laser welders are revolutionizing manufacturing in the USA

Laser welders offer amazing benefits for sheet metal welding compared to TIG and MIG. Laser welding is typically five times faster, neater, with 1/4 the heat input and 1/4 the distortion.  This results in much faster production of welded components with far less distortion, less weld stain and zero spatter.  No or minimal weld preparation is required.

Laser-welder.net specializes in hand-held laser welders. We have helped many companies benefit from the large savings and capability increase they deliver.

What is a handheld laser welder?

Hand held laser welding of stainless steel letterbox bank
Hand held laser welding of stainless steel letterbox bank

A handheld laser welder is a laser welder held and moved by hand. It has a gun or head similar to a MIG or MAG electric arc welder but bigger. Laser welding heads are larger because they contain a mirror and lens system which produces a finely focussed heat source. This is basically a hand held laser cutter with a control system to move the laser beam around so quickly that it heats the metal (or plastic perhaps) in a controlled way. Such movement is described as wobble or weaving. Simple laser welding heads have movement in one axis only, moving back and forth in a straight line. As the gun is moved along the weld seam by hand, the melt pool progresses in the same way as arc welding.

Laser Welders for Sale

Choose from our wide range of types. Our handheld laser welders cover every need.

What are the benefits of a hand held laser welder?

Close up of laser weld fillet on 14 gauge mild steel

• Very high return on investment and rapid payback.

• Hand held laser welding machines are more flexible than robots or CNC types.

• No need for expensive jigging or setup like robotic welding.

• Super fast! Very high output per worker.

• Typically 5 times faster than TIG. Reduces cost by 70% or more overall.

• No need for highly skilled TIG welders. Less skilled labour can be used.

• Less HAZ, weld stain, and no rework or finishing in most cases.

• Less fire risk. Almost no sparks or spatter.

• Far less consumables and argon gas required, due to much faster welding.

• No need to remove galvanizing before welding.

How does handheld differ from other types of laser welding?

Laser welding 1.2mm panel to 2mm mirror polished stainless
Laser welding 1.2mm panel to 2mm mirror polished stainless

Hand held laser welding’s main difference is in the name – the fact that the output head is held in the worker’s hand. Traditional laser welding is done with a fixed delivery system which is moved relative to the workpiece by a computer numerical controlled (CNC) system including robot control, or more recently cobot controlled. Often this is remote, meaning it’s spaced some distance from the part being welded.

Hand held laser welders are far more flexible than CNC types.  In a job shop or factory with low volume production, handheld welding is the best type because CNC programming and jigging is simply not practical until the volumes are large.

Note that handheld laser welding has a further advantage over TIG and MIG, because the wire feeder on our laser welders provides speed control where the wire being fed out pushes the gun along.  This constant speed leads to a consistent weld, so you have the benefit of a beautiful process-controlled robotic weld but with the human control and flexibility of hand held laser welding.

Which metals can be laser welded by hand?

The main metals that weld well with a laser welder are stainless steel and carbon steel. Our laser welders also weld aluminum very well, and at least as well as stainless or carbon steel . However some other brands weld poorly on aluminum because of their low power density, and low power.  Our 3000W (3kW) G5 laser welder has DOUBLE the power of the 1500W big brand laser welders, yet is still considerably cheaper than their 1500Wmuch cheaper.

Titanium is also laser welded. Copper can be laser welded, but it is very reflective to current fibre lasers (which are typically in the range of 1064 to 1080nm wavelength), so it’s difficult to melt. Copper’s excellent thermal conductivity is also against us in this case, as it sucks the heat away from the weld zone, exacerbating the problem with getting heat into the metal.

Most metals and alloys can be laser welded.  For example, we recently laser welded a Vanadium-Aluminium alloy to 300 series stainless steel for a government scientific agency, achieving a gas-tight seal, which they were delighted with.

Close up view of beautifully uniform stainless 16 gauge corner to corner weld
Close up view of beautifully uniform stainless 16 gauge corner to corner weld

What thickness can a hand held laser welder penetrate, and how fast?

The rule of thumb is that a 2kW (2000W) laser welder can weld 4mm stainless steel, mild steel and aluminum at around 10mm per second travel speed. Other thicknesses can be linearly interpolated, so a 1kW (1000W) laser welder will weld 2mm with full penetration at around 10mm per second head travel speed. Thicker material can be welded by slowing the travel speed, up to 6mm with full penetration of aluminum with our 2kw welders for example.

Depth of penetration is a function of the laser power density.  Higher power means more penetration, and they don’t get more powerful than our new 3000W G5-3000WC laser welder.   This model is very affordable, costing far less than the base model IPG Lightweld1500W, despite having twice the power.

What are the main elements of a handheld laser welder?

Hand held laser welders have a laser source to supply the laser output, a flexible fibre optic cable delivery system which also helps boost the power, a welding head to focus the energy on the weld seam, a control system to move the laser beam around in a controlled way, a shielding gas supply, and a cooling system to remove the waste head from the laser.

The cooling system much be quite effective as most laser welders are typically 30 percent efficient, meaning around 2/3 of the energy input is lost as heat. This is less efficient than arc welders but the improved speed and other benefits far outweigh this loss, as you aren’t welding for as long.  Note that our laser welders are unsurpassed for efficiency and duty cycle, with Lightwelder15 and Lightwelder20 at 42% efficiency, and still able to run at 100% duty cycle up to 110 degrees F, where some brands can’t run at full duty cycle far below that, at 90 degrees F.  Further increasing efficiency, our cooling systems are heat pump based, meaning they have an efficiency or coefficient of performance far above other types.

How do you guide a hand held laser welder?

Hand held laser welders are normally guided by hand. The skill is in moving with consistent speed. As with other types of welding, if the travel speed is consistent, the weld will be consistent. Importantly, our wire feeder can guide the head and push it along, which is a huge and under-recognized benefit of laser welding, allowing unskilled workers to produce beautiful and consistent welds. Skilled welders can control the weld pool by resisting this push from the wire, and build up a larger melt pool similar to a MIG welder.

A rotary device with a chuck allows perfectly consistent welds on tubes and pipes, and the gun can be held by hand or on a rest.  There is no need for a root pass as such, with the weld being done in one pass with perfect root geometry.

Laser welding 16 gauge steel tube in a rotary
Laser welding 16 gauge steel tube in a rotary

What are the advantages of hand held laser welding?

Comparison of aluminum 11 gauge 3mm internal fillet laser welds with wire and fused
Comparison of aluminum 11 gauge 3mm internal fillet laser welds with wire and fused

• Speed. Laser welding is typically five times as fast as TIG. This puts money in your pocket directly, while also reducing bottle necks and overheads.

• As much or as little penetration as you want. We can do fine sealing welds, or fully penetrate up to 6mm in one pass, with zero preparation and no post processing.

• Much less distortion. Laser welding heats the metal with a dot about 0.2mm in diameter, so the heat is very localized and only applied where it’s needed. In contrast the arc from a MIG or TIG is closer to 3mm, around 15 times as large as laser.

• Less staining or sugaring, due to the reduced head input.

• Stonger welds. The narrower and more localized weld cools quicker, with less annealing or loss of material properties. The grain size is smaller.

• Much less skill is required, so you don’t have to use highly paid and hard to find welding technicians.

• Basically zero spatter and much less clean up. Big savings in post processing.

• Integrated cleaning. We have cleaning modes to clean staining from welds. Some customers have purchased machines just to use them for cleaning welds due to the large savings over TIG brushing or pickling.

• Compared to CNC or roboic welding, hand held laser welders are more flexible and don’t requre programming. They can be used for one off jobs, small or large batches.

• Wire feeding and pre-set parameters allow low skilled workers to perform laser welding comparable to TIG master welders, and much faster.

• Safer in most ways.  There is much less electrocution risk as there is no arc. Pacemakers are less affected.  Eye safety requires special care per our safety section. No ultraviolet radiation is output by the laser, only some may be emitted by the white hot molten metal, but we’ve not had any noticable “sunburn” from it. Spatter is very rare.  Strong reflections can burn your skin, or melt welding helmets because they are in the reflection zone.  This is why our new welding helmet has extra shielding. Eye safety requires special care!

Very small weld 0.040" on stainless steel disk
Very small weld 0.040" on stainless steel disk

What are the disadvantages of handheld laser welders compared to MIG and TIG?

Two box sections welded with a gap between them
Box sections welded with a gap

• Laser welders are not good at filling large gaps. It can be done, but a MIG is better for gap filling. Sometimes small design or trim line changes are required to maximise the benefits of laser welding. i.e. Minimise gaps.

• Eye safety. Most laser welders are infrared and invisible. However infrared is focused by the eye and dangerous for unprotected eyes.  Correctly rated laser glasses must be worn (and a laser welding helmet such as our new Mk2 version).  See our safety section for further information.

• Fire risk higher than TIG, but similar to MIG.  However we believe MIG is the worst because the spatter travels to non-visible locations.  Although a laser weld is much cooler due to focused heat input, copper or aluminum can cause specular (unabated) reflections.  In the worst case, (gun held steady for a long time, which is rare or silly) a reflection could melt plastic or set flammable items on fire up to 2 metres or so.  Flammable items must be kept further back.

 

How much does a hand held laser welder cost?

Front control panel of red Gen5 laser welder
Front control panel of Gen5 laser welder

Hand held laser welders range from around $13,000 for a 1500W water cooled model such as our G5-1500WC up to $50,000 or more for a European or Japanese branded 1500W or 2000W machine (some of which use cheaper brands of laser welders inside…). 

Our low prices are because the business model is to sell the best system (or at least one of the best) at the lowest cost, and minimise margins and overheads. Other brands can cost considerably more. IPG’s cheapest Lightweld 1500W costs $22,000 or about $9,000 more than our cheapest 1500W model, extending up to about $33,000 for their top specification air cooled XR model, excluding $1,900 wire feeder.

Even our high end laser welders cost much less, with our most expensive models at only $17,800 MSRP (retail price) for our 3000W water cooled model, or the same cost for our portable 2000W Lightwelder20. 

Wire feeders in the USA tend to be sold as an optional extra.  Our single wire feeders cost $990 but similar wire feeders cost about twice as much from other brands such as IPG.

 

What types of hand held laser welders are there?

Hand held laser welders can be classified according to:

Power

Ranging from 1000W to 1500W to 2000W in general. Currently the most powerful on the market is 3000W. However 3kW is at the uppper limit for optics in the head, so we don’t expect to see welders above 3000W in the near future.

Cooling system

Most are water cooled with an internal chiller, and this is our biggest seller (the Gen 5 or G5 models). However air cooled types are becoming more common. Air cooled types break down further, into refrigerant heat pump type, heat pipe type and pure convection via fan. We sell the heat pump type because our testing shows the best cooling from this type, which allows the highest duty cycle.

Head types

Single wobble versus double wobble (weave). We find double wobble welds better in many situation, and our G5 models have the best double wobble head we can find. This head also has single wobble and laser cutting mode. The double wobble also allows more cleaning options. However no air cooled laser welder currently allows double wobble, and hence our air cooled laser welders, Lightwelder15 and Lightwelder20 also have single wobble heads.

What is double wobble laser welding? (Double weaving)

Comparison of double wobble weaving patterns
Comparison of double wobble weaving patterns

Wobble or weaving is the term used to describe movement of the laser beam. The laser beam must be kept moving so it heats the metal rather than melting through it. The simplest wobble pattern is just scanning left and right in one axis, known as single wobble. Double wobble moves the beam in two axes, allowing it to trace shapes such as circles, triangles, hourglass and D shapes. We find double wobble welds better in many situations, particularly for thin sheet metal such as 25 gauge to 11 gauge. With thicker materials single wobble can be the best solution, but you really want both, which means buying a welder with double weaving.  Double wobble heads can weld in single wobble mode, so you get the option to use either.

How much does a hand held laser welder cost? 

Hand held laser welders range from around $13,000 for a 1500W water cooled model such as our G5-1500WC up to $50,000 or more for a European or Japanese branded 1500W or 2000W machine (some of which use cheaper brands of laser welders inside…).  Our high end laser welders cost much less at $17,800 for our 3000W water cooled model, or the same cost for our portable 2000W Lightwelder20.  Wire feeders in the USA tend to be sold as an optional extra.  Our single wire feeders cost $990 but similar wire feeders cost twice as much from brands such as IPG.

Does the head feed wire out, or is the welding autogenous?

Hand held laser welding can be done with wire, or without (autogenous or fusion welding). Fusing can be done if the parts fit up neatly, so the laser can penetrate the interface and simply melt the parts together. If there is a gap, or extra bulk is required in the weld, wire feeding must be used.

What size gaps can a hand held laser welder fill?

Neat laser weld on galvanized steel box section
Laser weld on galvanized steel box section

A laser welder can fill gaps up to .080″ (2mm) or so when it is used to feed wire into the gap.  For large gaps a MIG welder may be the better choice, at the cost of high heat input and distortion.  However laser welding delivers massive benefits when the gaps are reduced or eliminated.  Hence the best solution is to reduce the size of gaps.  Laser welders in the wire-pushed mode are able to fill gaps up to .040″ (1mm) with large wire like .065″ (1.6mm).  In this mode the speed is controlled by the wire feeder rather than holding back to fill gaps, and very little skill is required!

When fusing (no wire used) the gap must be small, around 0.2mm or so ideally. If you have gaps larger than .020″ we recommend tuning the trim lines or changing joint types so laser welding will give excellent welds.

What type of wire does a handheld laser welder use?

Normal MIG wire is typically used with a laser welder. It is also possible to use manually applied filler rod, using the laser as a heat source, a bit like a TIG.

Which gas or gases are best for laser welding?

We recommend pure argon for all welding.  IPG recommends argon for aluminum, and nitrogen for stainless and steel.  Feel free to try both and see what you prefer.

What is the optimal angle of the head to workpiece?

Testing has shown the best angle for the laser welding head is between 45 and 60 degrees to the weld bead axis, like the image shown, which is closer to 60 degrees. When welding internal or external fillets the gun is normally in the middle of the internal angle, so the gun is then at a compound angle.

Laser welding aluminum box section 1/8"
Laser welding aluminum box section 1/8"

How do you focus the laser, and why would you change the focus?

Front section of a laser gun or head with ruler
How to ensure correct focal length

The focal point is fixed, but the output tube length is changed to focus the laser spot size.  Focal length is determined by the focal lens, and inherent in the head design. However you can move the head up or down, and even slight variations in spot size make a big difference when welding aluminium. This is because aluminum requires a finely focused beam (high power density) to penetrate and form a weld pool. Our welders have a sharp focus and this is a key reason for their excellent performance on aluminum. The top spec IPG Lightweld XR has a very small spot size also, but IPG’s base and mid range models have a lower power density, as witnessed by some of the videos of them welding aluminum and taking a little longer to start the weld.

Stainless steel is quite tolerant of focus, and welds beatifully with ease.

We find carbon steel benefits from a different spot size, as it is less tolerant of high power density and can boil off, showing up as sparks and pock marks. Note that changing focus the wrong way can create back reflections which are harmful to a laser source, so be sure to read our instruction manual when you buy one of our machines. The user manual shipped with our machines has a wealth of information inside.

Air cooled vs water cooled laser welders

For many years laser welders have been water cooled. Older types of laser welders used very inefficient (power hungry with high heat rejection) laser sources such as flash lamps, which rejected most of their heat, and water was the only way to get rid of it. Our hand held laser welders use fibre laser sources which are more efficient then most, but we use heat pumps with water cooling because it offers the highest heat rejection and thermal capacity, allowing the highest duty cycle. Our Lightwelder15 and 20 have efficiency at the top of the class, allowing their heat pumps to be air cooled. The test data shows this is the best of the air cooling methods, explained below.

A batch of 3kW laser welders nearing completion in the factory
A batch of 3kW laser welders nearing completion in the factory

Is a heat pump laser welder better than passive cooling?

Graph

Unlike traditional air cooling methods, active direct cooling technology via a heat pump can operate in environments ranging from -20°C to 50°C. Even at 100% duty cycle operation of high-powered air-cooled lasers, the laser chip temperature remains within a safe range, avoiding the risk of laser chip failure caused by excessive temperatures with the cheaper air cooling methods

There are three methods used by air cooled laser welders: 
1. Refrigerant heat pump (similar to air conditioners, which have a C.O.P. up to 5 or 6)
2. Heat pipes, similar to those used to cool laptop processors
3. Pure convection (relies on air movement over the hot components).

This graph shows the relative performance of the methods, and the reason we use the most expensive system, but also the best. This pays off with a 100% duty cycle up to 100 degrees F, outperforming our competitors.

Is hand held laser welding dangerous compared to MIG and TIG arc welding?

Laser welding is more dangerous for eye safety than MIG or TIG welding, but less dangerous when it comes to spatter and high temperatures of the parts.

Laser welders normally emit near infrared light, meaning it is nearly visible, and not blocked by the cornea. The invisible light is high powered and concentrated, and its output has little divergence. That means it can be focused to a sharp point by the eyes, putting all that energy into a tiny dot on the back of the eye where our light sensors are.  This high intensity burns the eye, damaging it unless correct eyewear is worn. Safety eyewear is available to make the laser safe, but it must be worn by everyone in the laser welding cell or room.  Everyone else needs to be protected with the correct eyewear and/or excluded from the room/enclosure, and other measures as per federal regulation OSHA 1926.102, ANSI Z136.1 and your laser safety officer. See our laser safety section for an overview of laser safety.

Is push or pull better for handheld laser welding?

Most laser welders are set up for pull welding, so the gun is pulled towards the operator. This is mainly because the nozzle must be in contract with the workpiece for the laser to fire (as a safety measure to avoid the head becoming a laser pistol). The gun travels more smoothly if dragged than if pushed, hence pull welding is used.

Laser welder about to start using double wobble Qilin welding head
Laser welder about to start using double wobble Qilin welding head

What are the most popular brands of hand held laser welders?

IPG is most often associated with hand held laser welders, but Amada, Bystronic, Fanuci and others sell them also.  In Australia the most popular laser welder brand is our sister company, laser-welder.com.au

What is the best laser welder?

It is very hard to say who makes the best. However ours are as good as anything else on the market, by far the best value, and with the best welding heads in our opinion.  Our welders have proven extremely reliable in Australia, but everybody we talk to with the big competing brand has had a cable failure or head failure, or found the user interface and look up sheet did not work well.  In contrast we have easy to use menus and most models have well-tuned presets for material and thickness.

What is the best value laser welder?

The best value laser welders are made by Laser-welder.net   Our laser welders are among the lowest priced on the market, but weld as well or better than any on the market, are easy to use, have the cheapest consumables and excellent support.  When you buy from us you also tap into our extensive experience from years of using them and matching laser welders to customer requirements.

Is a 2000W laser welder worth it?

Two red and black G5-2000WC laser welders side by side in showroom
G5-2000WC laser welders side by side

Yes, our 2kW laser welders are excellent value on a $ per Watt basis.
In 2024 a 1500W welder is the recommended entry point at $12,800.  1.5kW will laser weld up to 3mm steel or stainless sheet, and 3mm or thicker aluminum at high speed in one pass.  However, for any company that needs to weld thicker material, our G5-2000WC water cooled version is not a large step up in price.  It costs $2,200 more (only 17%) to get 2kW, a power increase of 33%.  This can run large jobs with the high throughput and quality that laser welding delivers. That is excellent value and will quickly pay back the small extra investment.
However the best value on the market in Watts per dollar is our 3kW model, G5-3000WC.  This has double the power of a 1500W unit but costs only $17,800. That is less than HALF the price of the cheapest IPG Lightweld 1500.

Can a laser welder join dissimilar metals?

Yes, a laser welder can do this because it stirs the metals using the laser path, running at high stirring speed. This allows the metals to melt and lock together, similar to velcro hook and loops. It may require some tuning to get it right, but it can be done on many metal combinations.  Due to the superior penetration of laser welding it is very common to weld an aluminium part on a steel welding bench and find the part is also welded very strongly to the bench.  We usually weld on a copper plate, or space the weld face off the table, to avoid this.  However it is stil possible to penetrate through the steel and weld it to the copper.

Are hand held laser welders safe?

Hand held lasers are Class 4, meaning they can set things on fire and cause eye or skin injuries. Special steps are required to use them safely. The operator and any assistants must wear correctly rated laser glasses and laser welding helmets, which we test and sell.  Using the correct safety eyewear makes the process very safe for that operator.  However a controlled area is required to avoid unprotected personnel being exposed to reflections, partly because the fibre laser light is invisible but our eyes focus it (concentrate the heat) on the retina where it can cause retinal burns with permananent damage. Refer to our laser safety page for an overview of laser safety.

Laser Welder Buying Guide

Please read the home page, this handheld laser welder page, and our product specifications. These contain basically all you need to know before buying. When you buy one of our laser welders we will guide you through the setup and smaller details. If you have any questions feel free to email or call us.