The Various Types, Techniques & Processes of Laser Drilling

Laser drilling was not the first kind of laser drilling process that was used and instead found itself come about as more of a development from the laser cutting process. However, this was over half a century ago, and since then laser drilling has changed to become a highly efficient form of laser process in its own right.

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Laser beam

With an increased change in the components, parts, and pieces that are used within the various manufacturing industries, the laser drilling process has had to adapt and change itself. This has led to the rise of several different laser drilling processes, which we have explored in more detail below.

How can there be more than one laser drilling process?

One of the biggest advantages of laser drilling is that, unlike other more conventional forms of drilling, one single setup and one single machine is capable of producing hundreds of different results across dozens of different materials, including metals, rubbers, plastics, glass, and diamond.

This is because the beam can be manipulated in such a way as to offer the user total control over its duration, intensity, and heat output. This control means that over the years there has been a number of different laser processes develop, each offering its own unique benefits to the different materials that it is working with.

What are the different laser drilling types and techniques?

There are now four main types of laser drilling, which we have explained in more detail below:

Single-shot laser drilling

Single-shot or single-pulse laser drilling is the most basic of the different laser drilling types. This is simply where a single laser beam is pulsed at a single location of a material repeatedly until that material begins to melt layer by layer.

This method can be used either to create thru-holes in a material or simply to rough up a surface, which is great for gluing or coating purposes. Single-shot laser drilling is a simple, yet fast and efficient, form of laser drilling, and is used to create a large number of holes within a short space of time.

Laser drilling process for turbine engines

Single-shot laser drilling can create multiple holes quickly, useful for things such as turbine engines

Percussion laser drilling

Percussion laser drilling is very similar to single-shot laser drilling, and works by firing pulses of a laser at one specific spot of a material. As with the above method, it melts away a material’s surface layer by layer, leaving behind a rough surface or clean thru-holes.

The difference, however, between percussion laser drilling and single-shot laser drilling is that the size of the beam being used within percussion laser drilling is changed throughout the process, changing the size of the hole throughout the process.

Percussion laser drilling, therefore, typically creates deeper and more precise holes with smaller hole diameters than single-shot laser drilling.  Most percussion laser drilled holes will fall within the 300µm-600µm range. Percussion laser drilling, as with single-shot drilling, is typically seen as one of the fastest forms of laser drilling, and is extremely effective at working with material thickness which is greater than that of the beam itself, as well as creating a great number of holes quickly.

Trepan laser drilling

Trepan laser drilling, also called trepanning, initially works in the same way as single-shot or percussion laser drilling by piercing a hole in the material that it is being used on. Once the laser beam has pierced the material; it then moves in a spiral configuration using a motion system to cut a hole. The beam starts from the diameter’s centre, and then moves in an increasingly large spiral diameter until the correct hole size has been created.

The trepan laser drilling method has been developed to help create holes of different shapes, counter-bores and slots, and for creating cross sections, as well as trimming 3D shapes. This has meant that it has become an extremely useful process when one is working with a complicated part or object.

With this process, the majority of the molten material that is created when the laser melts it falls outward from the bottom of the hole that has been created.

Helical laser drilling

Helical laser drilling, as with the similarities between single-shot laser drilling and percussion laser drilling, is extremely similar to trepan laser drilling. As with trepan laser drilling, helical laser drilling involves working in a helical motion to create the desired hole.

The difference between the two is that helical laser drilling does not involve the creation of an initial pilot hole for the desired hole to be created. Instead, as soon as the process has begun, the laser drilling system works in the necessary circular motion.

Conventional drilling process

Helical laser drilling works in much the same way as a conventional drill, moving the laser around in a helix motion

During the process, the laser beam can be adjusted so that the laser is always focused at the base of the hole, and can keep working to enlarge the hole and smooth out the edges. Helical laser drilling is most often used in order to create very large and very deep holes.

Unlike the percussion laser drilling process, with helical laser drilling most of the molten material that is left over will shoot upwards rather than downwards.

Interested to hear more on which laser drilling process might be right for you?

The above gives a brief overview on the four main types of laser drilling. While each is different in its own right, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly which laser drilling process might be right for the application that you wish to complete. With uses in many different areas, including the automotive, aerospace, electrical, semi-conductor and medical industries, each of the different types of laser drilling offers a unique way of working for the user.

If you want to know more about the types and techniques of laser drilling, or want to know more on how our Continuous Wave Fiber Laser and Pulsed Fiber Laser range can achieve this, you can get in contact with the team here.


Image credits: SD-Pictures, blickpixel, an


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