Drilling

Laser drilling is a successful manufacturing solution

for many industries due to its advantages over

conventional drilling techniques.

 

Benefits include non-contact processing,

low heat input into the material,

flexibility to drill a wide range of

materials, accuracy and consistency.

laser drilling metal

 

Laser drilling has become a widely used manufacturing solution in many industries. The primary advantage of laser drilling is that it is a non-contact process and hence mechanical wear of the drilling tool is not an issue. Other benefits include the flexibility to drill almost any material, the ability to change hole size, shape and approach angle instantaneously, the low heat input to the parent material and excellent hole-to-hole dimensional repeatability. In addition, the laser has the ability to drill small diameters not possible with conventional drilling techniques. Holes in the
10 micron region are possible with fiber laser technology. 

The common techniques used in drilling are percussion hole drilling and trepanning. Percussion drilling is a process where multiple pulses are applied per hole to achieve the desired results. On-the-fly drilling is a sub-set of percussion drilling where the target surface moves at high speed with respect to the laser beam and the laser is continuously pulses to produce holes. Trepanning is a process that allows cutting of large diameter holes or contoured shapes. Hole taper can be carefully controlled in the trepanning process. Lasers can rapidly switch from trepanned hole drilling to percussion drilling on-the-fly to produce a wide range of hole sizes in one part.

The advantages of laser drilling have been accepted many years ago by the aerospace industry. Today, quasi-continuous wave (QCW) fiber lasers are rapidly superseding older flashlamp pumped technology for drilling large holes (0.2 - 1 mm). This type of hole can be made in a wide variety of aerospace components such as nozzle guide vanes, blades and cooling rings and combustors. QCW fiber lasers have a unique combination of high peak power and high pulse energy making them ideal for applications requiring multi-joule pulses in the millisecond regime. The flexible QCW laser can also be rapidly reconfigured for CW operation for cutting larger details.

The microelectronics industry has employed laser drilling for a wide range of applications such as drilling alumina ceramic substrates. Drilling of small diameter holes (<10 μm) is required at very high speeds, up to several thousands of holes per second.  In this case, high peak power q-switched type fiber lasers or shorter variable pulsed fiber lasers are employed with pulse repetition rates up to 1 MHz and pulse lengths as short as 1.5 ns.

High power fiber lasers are also currently used for rock drilling applications and for oil and gas exploration industries. The high peak powers and energy pulses are also used for drilling thick metals.

Types of Metals

Stainless Steels Carbon Steels Gold & Silver Aluminum
Tool Steels Nickel Alloys Brass & Copper Titanium

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