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Everything that we use, from the shoes we wear to the transport that we take to the house that we live in has gone through some kind of manufacturing process. The manufacturing system is one of the largest on the planet, and it involves all kinds of materials.
With items and components getting smaller and smaller, laser drilling has emerged as one of the only viable manufacturing processes
With metals, plastics, rubbers, composites and more being involved, machines have to work with many different materials in order to produce the final, high-quality product.
Laser drilling plays a huge role in that, most importantly because it is one of the most adaptable processes available to the manufacturing industry. This means that it can easily and quickly switch between working with the different materials, whether that is metal, plastic, or something else entirely. Below we have explained in greater detail just how effective laser drilling is on various materials.
As briefly mentioned above, the laser drilling process is a highly adaptable, versatile one. It has the ability to produce hundreds of different varieties of holes or thru-holes of different shapes and depths across complex 3D objects, components, and structures.
Laser drilling has noticed an increased use in the manufacturing industry over the last few years, and this is mostly down to the rapid progression of innovation that we are experiencing almost daily. Components and parts of finished products, and even the finished products themselves, are becoming increasingly small and complex and the manufacturing processes need to reflect this change. There are other forms of drilling available on the market, but these more conventional methods can only drill holes as small as around 0.003” in diameter, which is roughly the size of a human hair. Previously, this was all that was required of the drilling process.
Now, with objects being much smaller, a process is needed that can match this decrease in size while maintaining, or even increasing, the level of efficiency and precision. And this is where laser drilling comes in, with an ability to drill holes as small as 0.0004” in diameter at an incredible rate of between 0.3 and 3 holes per second.
Laser drilling’s ability to work at such small sizes with such a high rate of speed is just one reason that it is such a versatile process. The other is that it lends the user total control over beam manipulation, allowing them to easily adjust the beam duration and intensity, as well as the heat output that will affect the material that is being worked with. Finally, there are a number of techniques that can be employed to use laser drilling in different ways.
Thanks to all of this, and the fact it is a non-contact process, laser drilling can deliver an accurate and precise hole without damaging or affecting the material in any other way. This means that one laser drilling machine can be used for a variety of different materials, making it one of the most useful and adaptable procedures available to those in the manufacturing industry. We explore this in more detail below.
Metal is one of the most commonly used materials within the manufacturing industry, and is something that laser drilling is extremely effective at working with. The laser drilling process can be used on a variety of metals, including nickel alloys, copper alloys, aluminium alloys, titanium alloys, stainless steel, nitinol, and brass. Such instances where laser drilling has been used on metals within the manufacturing industry are for creating cooling thru-holes in turbine engines or for injection nozzles in automobiles that allow the fuel to be delivered to the engine.
Plastics, also known as polymers, polyimides, and polycarbonates, are another material that laser drilling is frequently used with. Shorter wavelength beams are typically used in the laser drilling process when working with plastics and polymers, as shorter wavelengths have enough energy to break the polymer bonds in the chains.
Such items that use plastics are medical devices, and given the nature of the medical sector and the importance of the devices that are used within this industry, it is imperative that they are manufactured to a high degree of quality. Only laser drilling offers this level of safety, reliability, and quality with precision and accuracy at the forefront of the manufacturing process. The medical industry is one such industry where devices and components have become smaller and smaller, therefore resulting in the need for micro laser drilling. These dimensions are moving towards the 1 µm level, and this is something that only laser drilling can handle.
Glass is another material that laser drilling is great at working with. Glass is obviously a brittle and fragile material, and the laser drilling process offers a reliable method for producing effective holes in glass. Some laser drilling processes are able to drill 1,000 thru-holes in 30 to 100 µm thin glass sheets.
Laser drilling can be used on many materials, including glass
Such uses for glass within the manufacturing industry are, for example, for electrical interconnects in chip packaging. The reason glass makes for such a good interposer is because it offers a good level of dimensional stability, it has a low level of insertion loss, and it is coefficient of thermal expansion at a level that matches that of silicon.
Other uses for laser drilling on glass are for the creation of leak test holes, which are replications of faults that may occur in vials. This helps to produce high-quality final products. The following video shows the laser drilling process on glass:
Femtosecond laser drilling a 0.006 mm hole in the glass plate
Laser drilling has developed to become a vital part of the manufacturing process, thanks to its ability to easily adapt between a host of different materials. As each manufacturing process will most likely use several materials throughout, having one machine that can handle all of these is hugely beneficial and cost-effective.
Laser drilling can be used on many other materials, including diamonds
Thanks to this adaptability, laser drilling is commonly found in industries such as the aerospace industry, automotive industry, semi-conductor industry, electronics industry, and the medical sector. If you’re interested in hearing more on the other processes that our Pulsed Fiber Laser and Continuous Wave Fiber Laser range can undertake, simply get in contact with us here.
Image credits: blickpixel, Sweet Ice Cream Photography, and Ialesh aldarwish
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