Rofin Starweld Laser Welder
Gary Smith, owner of Smith's LTD. is one of the few jewelers in the country who use a state-of-the-art laser to repair fine jewelry. The laser welder is manufactured by Rofin-Baasel, Inc. of Acton, Mass., which calls the special laser equipment the Starweld Microwelder and reports that new technology is a "safe, simple, environmentally benign alternative to conventional solder welding." Traditionally, there are a lot of jewelers who can repair jewelry.
In the Old World way of repairing, you cut two dovetail notches into a ring and mechanically make a piece to fill the space. Then you melt gold solder and it is sucked down in to fill the space. This has been done for hundred of years. It is a time-consuming process. It requires a lot of skill that is developed over years of experience. But with new technology, repairing fine jewelry is becoming faster and more efficient. Now we can do a butt joint to repair jewelry. We just make two parallel joint cuts face to face. That's the common process used to resize rings today. But even with that new joint, traditional soldering is not the most desirable way to repair or resize jewelry.
With lasers, you can cut two 45-degree angles on a ring and fill it with whatever the ring was made of and when it's done, you can't tell it has been repaired because it has been filled with the same metal. You can even repair pieces that are semi-metals, such as in costume jewelry, just like you can do repairs on precious metals, like gold. An added plus with the laser welder is that very little heat is produced. Because there is little heat, you can work on rings that you could never do before. Now you can do work right next to stones like opals and emeralds, which are very sensitive to heat and can shatter. You had to remount the stones before, because they couldn't be exposed to the heat of a torch.
With Rofin laser welder, you can actually weld really fine chain, working on individual links. Doing that the old way, jewelers would chop off part of the chain and solder it together again in a glob. The laser welder is so versatile and useful for fine repair work that it can be used to repair or restore vintage (antique) jewelry. With the laser new things can be done with metals that were impossible before. Pieces that weren't fixable before can be repaired with this. You can smooth things out and create textures and you can even solder two different metals together. Stuff that you were limited to before, now because of the technology, there may be no limit to what you can do.
The laser is such cutting-edge technology there is no pollution and you can solder higher temperature metals such as platinum, which melts at 3,224 degrees Fahrenheit, or gold, which melts at 1,945 degrees. You can even repair titanium and steel eyeglasses with it. The amazing thing is the laser is simply a beam of light. Depending on the diameter of the laser beam's focus and the duration of the blast of concentrated light, as well as voltage used and number of pulses per second, we can cut with the laser, weld two pieces of precious metal together, or do fill-in work to smooth out gaps and rough spots. The work is so smooth that even an expert can't detect the repair work once it is polished. The weld joints created by the laser are stronger that traditional welds and the company's information sheet says that the "welds are 70 percent stronger that soldered joints, with the ability to combine or marry metals together, is a 'breeze' with laser welding."