Applications of Laser Cutting in Automotive Industry

Do you wonder how modern cars are made with such precision? It’s because lasers are playing an increasingly important role in automotive production. Where robots were once the main tools on the factory floor, lasers are the new replacement to cut components with unmatched accuracy. 

Laser cutting in automotive industry is a highly efficient and versatile process, allowing for the streamlined production of vehicle parts. It offers benefits like precision cutting of complex shapes, minimal heat impact on materials, and use on a wide range of materials. Lasers have become invaluable for tasks like fabricating metal bodies, trimming plastic parts, and engraving VIN codes.

We’ll cover the various applications of laser cutting in automobile manufacturing and how the integration of this technology has made vehicle assembly more efficient and cost-effective.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a material processing technique that uses a laser to cut various materials, like metal, plastic, and wood. So, what exactly happens during the laser cutting process?

A high-power laser sends out an intense beam of light that passes through lenses and mirrors, which focus and direct the beam. The laser beam is then aimed at the material being cut through a computer numerical control or CNC machine that programs the laser’s movement. When the laser beam hits something, its intensive heat causes that material to melt, burn, evaporate, or be blown away.

  • A standard laser beam diameter is around 0.32 mm. 
  • Kerf width of laser cut materials could be up to 0.10 mm, allowing for intricate cuts.
  • Precise optics focus the laser beam to a spot size smaller than a human hair.
  • Faster pulsed lasers are used to pierce thicker materials like sheet metal.

Some key advantages of laser cutting include precision, versatility, and speed. Lasers allow for very accurate geometries without the need for contact with the material. They can cut almost any material from plastics to steel. And with speeds of thousands of cuts per minute, this method is highly productive.

These factors make laser cutting especially well-suited for automotive manufacturing. 

Applications of Laser Cutting in Automotive Industry

A laser cutter machine can reliably produce sharp edges and tight radii on all kinds of automotive component materials. Their speed also matches the high-volume production needs of vehicle assembly plants worldwide.

Let’s find out some applications of laser cutting in automotive industry: 

1. Body Panels

Automotive laser cutting delivers top-quality body panels for vehicles. A laser precisely cuts the metal outlines needed for each panel piece. This allows designs to feature smoother edges and tighter tolerances compared to other cutting methods. 

The laser scans back and forth, melting away unwanted metal. It accomplishes this with computer-guided precision. As a result, panel pieces install almost flawlessly into a car frame. 

The laser technology also creates less scrap metal waste. Traditional cutting leaves behind leftover material but a laser does sheet metal cutting right on the line without any excess. Factories also appreciate the speed of this method. It zips through designs much faster than other techniques. 

2. Automotive Interiors

Lasers can cut cleanly and seal edges of custom fabrics and materials of car seats and interior components. 

Many cars have fabric coverings on the seats, interior pillars, headliners, and other areas. Lasers help shape these coverings by closely following contours and cutting away material with precision. 

A 5-axis machining process removes the excess of the upholstery fabric bonded during the molding stage. The non-contact cutting helps maintain the quality of technical fabrics used for safety features, like seat belts and airbags.

One of the major uses of lasers is processing plastic interior parts. They can trim and cut holes into dashboards, door panels, and other plastic components. 

3. Power Battery Components

Thin metal foils like aluminum and copper, along with insulating separator foils, make up the individual battery cells in electric vehicles (EVs). These foil materials are challenging to cut precisely.

High-powered infrared and ultraviolet pulsed lasers are great for cutting these delicate foils into the required shapes during cell assembly. By creating smooth edges, laser cutting prevents lithium dendrite formation between the foils. 

Laser techniques also do clean welding of electrical tabs that connect the anode and cathode layers within each cell. In EVs, lasers similarly cut rugged but precisely dimensioned carriage components to hold the large battery packs securely. 

4. Hot-Formed Steel Plates

Hot-formed steel plates make vehicles lighter yet stronger. They use boron steel plates that are four times harder than regular steel. These plates are then softened using high heat for forming complex shapes needed for parts like frames and body panels. Robust vehicle structures lead to improved safety, with less deformation during collisions.

Laser cutting technology allows engineers to cut the hot-formed steel into the precise shape and size required. The laser cuts ensure clean, accurate edges that don’t require additional trimming or finishing. It also helps steel plates absorb impact energy better by reinforcing structural areas.

5. Automotive Tailor-Welded Blanks

Tailor-welded blanks are made from different thickness steel sheets. They allow car manufacturers to make various car parts in the required design. 

Cars use tailor-welded blanks to make their bodies lighter but still strong. Lighter cars need less fuel to move. Some car structures are 15% lighter from tailor-welded blanks, which can save 10% of gas. 

Laser cutting in automotive industry helps to make tailor-welded blanks. The laser precisely melts and fuses the sheets together without a large weld. One welded sheet can replace many small pieces welded together. 

6. Aluminum Alloy Side Panels

Automakers are increasingly using aluminum alloys to make car bodies lighter. One popular alloy series used is 5xxx, with magnesium as the main additive. It increases the alloy’s strength without adding much weight. 

Laser cutting is an important process for shaping aluminum alloy sheets into side panels for vehicles. It allows cutting accurate, intricate designs that fit nicely to the overall framework. 

Some benefits of laser cutting aluminum alloy side panels include:

  • It can cut very detailed shapes quickly for complex panel designs
  • High precision is possible without risk of damage like with other cutting methods
  • Minimal heat impact on the aluminum prevents warping or micro-cracks
  • Programming allows automated, repeatable cuts with little waste
  • Sharp, clean edges result which don’t require additional smoothing

7. Frame VIN Code

Auto manufacturers use laser engraving to stamp Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on vehicle frames. A VIN is made up of 17 letters and numbers that serves as a unique identification of a vehicle. 

Laser machines can engrave this long code very quickly, doing the whole thing in about four seconds. This speed lets the laser fit right into assembly lines without slowing the production down.

Lasers are a good choice because they mark frames without touching them. This means car parts don’t need to be held in place with clamps before marking. It prevents scratches or dings that clamps could cause. Also, their precision lets manufacturers clearly stamp each VIN in exactly the right spot. 

8. Plastic Parts of Automobile Lamps

Many plastic components in car lamps are cut using laser machines. Things like headlight and taillight housings are often made from clear plastics so we can see the lights. These plastics need to be precisely cut to shape during making.

Laser cutters can easily cut shapes in plastics like polycarbonate, which is commonly used for car lights. This material is transparent, impact-resistant, and can tolerate the high temperatures from the lighting beam.  

Laser cutting makes quick work of trimming plastic lamp housings down to the exact final form. Since this method works great for accurate cuts, manufacturers also use it for creating holes for light bulbs and wires. 

9. Sensors and Electronic Components

Automotive laser cutting plays an important role in making sensors and electronic components. Sensors help cars drive safely by providing information to the computer. They measure things like speed, temperature, and pressure. The ECU (Electronic Control Unit) uses this data to keep the engine and other parts working properly.

Laser cutters drill small, accurate holes in panels and covers, helping with installing switches and sensors where they need to go. Automakers also use them for crafting and trimming various electrical components.

10. Fuel injectors and Steering Gears

Laser cutting for car manufacturing helps in making both fuel injectors and steering gears with high precision. 

For fuel injectors, a femtosecond laser can precisely cut small spray holes. These holes allow the injector to efficiently atomize fuel for better combustion. Smoother hole surfaces lead to improved fuel economy of up to 30%.

Another application of laser cutting is making steering wheels. It can accurately cut holes needed for buttons, switches, and other controls on the wheel. Some benefits of laser cutting includes:

  • Precision: It achieves precise dimensions without physical contact.
  • Variety of materials: It can cut different materials like steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber.
  • Speed: It’s faster than other methods like sawing or drilling.
  • Automation: Lasers can work in tandem with robotics for fully automatic production lines.


From creating perfect body panels to marking VIN codes, laser cutting in automotive industry brings speed, precision, and minimal waste to the assembly line. Laser machines ensure top quality and efficiency, making them an essential tool for building the cars of today and tomorrow.If your automotive manufacturing operation requires a laser system to cut complex parts with unmatched precision, contact Zintilon for a consultation. Get a quote for top-notch automotive laser cut services tailored for high-volume production needs.

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