Laser Ablation FAQs

Laser ablation is just one of the many processes that can be performed using one of our very own SPI Fiber Lasers. It bears similarities to some other applications methods, and so we thought it important to have a dedicated section answering some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive about ablation. Want to find out more? Read on below!

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What is laser ablation?

To put it simply, laser ablation is the process of removing a layer of a solid material or industrial compound. While the depth of the layer that is removed varies, this process is usually working at a small depth, and so the precision and accuracy that the laser offers is perfect for the desired result.

How does it work?

The beam is focused onto a substrate, vaporising off the material that lays on the surface. By controlling the intensity, wavelength and pulse length, you can control the amount of material that is removed.

Here we see laser ablation being conducted to remove oxide from titanium

Essentially, the material that has the laser beam directed at it will absorb this laser beam, eventually turning into a gaseous state. If using a higher level of laser flux, you will often find that this material will instead change into plasma.

Is a pulsed laser or continuous wave laser used?

Both types of laser can be used for the ablation process. We stock both types of fiber laser here at SPI Lasers. You can read more about these here:

A pulsed laser beam is the most common for this type of process.

What are the benefits of this type of laser method?

Lasers have become a dominant force in many industries around the world, rapidly replacing more traditional methods. This is no different with ablation, where the process enjoys much greater benefits over some of its longer-standing counterparts such as thin film removal.

The laser ablation process is more environmentally friendly than other alternatives

The laser ablation process is more environmentally friendly than other alternatives

These benefits include savings in terms of both time and costs, as well as being more flexible and more environmentally friendly. Other methods, such as the thin film removal mentioned above, are typically multi-step processes, taking much longer.

One of the biggest benefits to this process is the fact that minimal heat excess will be transferred to the surrounding area, keeping the materials that it is working with intact.

What kind of laser will I need?

There are some important factors that you must first consider before deciding which type of laser is best for you to use. We manufacture only fiber lasers here at SPI Lasers, but other alternatives are gas or crystal laser; you can read more on this below.

For the considerations for laser ablation, you’ll want to think about:

  • Wavelength – you will need to consider your minimum absorption depth, so that a high enough energy deposition can occur in a small volume. This will allow ablation to occur quicker
  • Pulse duration – Generally, shorter pulses are better for this process. This minimises thermal damage, and allows you to perform the process at peak power
  • Pulse repetition rate – The heat of the beam needs to be maintained, and not allowed time to cool. This speeds up the process, and reduces energy waste
  • Beam quality – You need a beam with a high enough quality to perform the process. Brightness, focus ability and homogeneity determine a beam’s quality

What is different about using a fiber laser?

The fiber laser is the newest laser technique and the most beneficial in our opinion. It offers a more cost-effective solution than its counterparts, as well as being safer, more efficient, having and being more environmentally friendly.

If you want to read more on fiber lasers vs gas lasers, we highly recommend this article.

What materials can it work with?

It can work with a range of materials, such as a range of metals, glass, crystals and ceramics

Which can it be used for?

Laser ablation has several primary functions. These are:

  • Film deposition, which is the applying a thin layer of material to a surface
  • Material characterisation, the process used to determine what materials are present in/on an object
  • Micro structuring, used to fabricate the miniature structure of an object

While it has many, many uses, just some of these include:

  • Thin film removal, a key process in the electronics and semiconductors industry, which removes an extremely thin layer of material
  • For etching silver onto ceramic. This is done to isolate bright metal plating onto ceramic, which can be useful for creating electrical isolation along the material, great for electronic circuitry
  • It can be used to work-harden metal surfaces through the transferring of momentum
The laser ablation process can be used on ceramics

The laser ablation process can be used on ceramics

Why is it more environmentally friendly?

Laser ablation is a more environmentally friendly process than many traditional alternatives because it uses no chemicals or solvents, and very little is left behind in terms of waste. This is unlike methods such as dry ice blasting.

With many businesses and industries looking for processes that will not only cut costs, be more efficient, and deliver quality but also to be environmentally safe too, laser ablation is the perfect solution.

Looking for more information?

We hope that the above information has been useful in providing you with all the information that you need regarding the process of laser ablation, and how it is used around the world.

If you have another question that you can’t see answered above, or want to discuss our range of fiber lasers, then we would be more than happy to assist you. To reach us, please find a list of our contact details here.

 

Image credits: Felix_Broennimann and Nikolay Osmachko

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