Laser ablation is the process of precision layer removal by a laser. This could be the removal of a wide-range of materials ranging from solid metals, ceramics and industrial compounds. Ablation is popularly used in applications such as elements used within electronic products (e.g. semi-conductors and micro-processors) by irradiation with a Laser beam. The absolute precision of Fiber Lasers comes to the forefront with laser ablation, a process which has many similarities to some of the laser cleaning processes. The general difference between laser ablation and laser cleaning is that ablation seeks to remove material, whereas cleaning aims to clean the material.
Laser ablation operates at the surface of an object and removes material from this surface with the absolute minimum of disturbance and heat transfer. Material removed could be a contaminant or perhaps a thin layer, ablation is particularly popular in thin film removal. The level of ablation can easily be varied based upon the material in use the laser beam intensity, the length of the pulse and also the wavelength of the laser used.
For further information on this topic, click to read our comprehensive guide – “What is Laser Ablation?”
At low Laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed Laser energy and evaporates or sublimates. At high Laser flux, the material is typically converted to a plasma. Usually, Laser ablation refers to removing material with a Pulsed Fiber Laser, but it is possible to ablate material with a Continuous Wave Laser (CW) if the Laser intensity is high enough. Both pulsed and continuous wave fiber lasers are available from SPI Lasers.
As you would expect there are numerous benefits, which can be realised through laser ablation.
A major benefit of this process is that it is completed with high levels of precision and accuracy, which is a common benefit of using fiber lasers in general. The fact that ablation is achieved in one step is a considerable advantage compared to traditional methods, which are almost always multi-step (e.g. pattern creation, chemical removing followed by cleaning).
The technique is used in many industries, but especially so within manufacturing, where it can be programmatically streamline integrated to other processes. Laser ablation can be applied across a wide variety of materials including ceramics, many types of metals, plastics as well as many other materials too. The low levels of heat transfer mean that laser ablation causes no damage to the surrounding materials, which are left untouched. This is another related benefit to the precision and accuracy with which ablation can be programmed through a fiber laser.
Laser ablation is a much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly technique than non-laser ablation methods such as dry ice blasting. Using no solvents and chemicals at all, the approach can be an effective ally to an organisation in reducing their carbon footprint.
Read our detailed guide to the many benefits of labour ablation by clicking here.
SPI Lasers can offer ablation with both our pulsed lasers and continuous wave laser range. It is an environmentally friendly process that is much gentler than using abrasive techniques; and the heating of the target is minimal. Ablation tasks can seamlessly be integrated into other laser-based tasks with your SPI Laser, these include (but are not limited to) cutting, drilling, marking, engraving, etc.
Watch this SPI Lasers video, which shows the removal of rust from steel – a classic ablation task
SPI Lasers have produced a series of FAQs with answers about fiber laser ablation, read these for further information. Read our application insights and postcards for further information, which provide in-depth guides to numerous ablation strategies:
‘Applications Insights’ are detailed articles on specific applications. ‘Application Postcards’ are bite sized insights on specific applications, designed to be easily digested in a matter of minutes.
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