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The automated laser welding process of 2.0 mm thick sheets of AISI 304 stainless steel was investigated. The disk laser with a beam spot diameter of 200 μm was used for bead-on-plate and next for autogenous butt joints welding. The influence of basic welding parameters such as laser power, welding speed, and focal spot position on fusion zone configuration, quality of joints, microstructure changes, and microhardness distribution across the joints were analysed and presented in this paper. The results have shown that stiffening of the 2.0 mm thick sheets is crucial for providing high quality and reproducibility of butt joint in a case of AISI 304 stainless steel due to relatively low thermal conductivity and simultaneously high thermal expansion. Relevant drop of microhardness in the weld zone was observed. The mean value of microhardness of the base metal was 230 HV0.1, while the microhardness in fusion zone of the test welds was ranged from 130 to 170 HV0.1. Additionally the microstructure changes in the weld metal and also in the heat affected zone of test joints is described.
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