How Laser Drilling Works
When a laser beam collides with material, the laser pulse heats, melts, and vaporizes it. During the process, the vaporized material rapidly increases in volume. The pressure created quickly expels the vaporized material, leaving behind the laser-drilled hole. The greater the energy in the pulse, the larger the hole, and this can be controlled with great precision. Laser drilling allows for very exact location, and accurate hole size.
Laser Drilling Methods
Putting a hole into or through a material is not as simple as just pointing the laser beam and letting fly. Different methods provide unique results, and the desired result in a specific material requires examination of which method works best to achieve that result.
Pulsed lasers can be carefully controlled and rapidly charged. These characteristics lend it to drilling at elevated rates in a given amount of time. It is simple, clean, and fast. This is the most basic form of laser drilling. This process led to several variations of laser drilling, including percussion, trepanning, and helical.
- Percussion drilling is fairly similar to single pulse. Instead of using one burst of energy, it reduces the power and uses several shorter bursts at the lower energy. Using the percussion method, holes can be deeper, more accurate, and hole diameters can be made even smaller due to less material vaporizing with each rapid pulse.
- Trepanning uses the laser much like a drill bit. Instead of a single beam creating a hole through a single or multiple pulse laser bursts on one spot, trepanning first creates a starter hole and then enlarges the hole by moving the beam outward in an ever-increasing circular pattern. This method can create larger holes with smaller beams, allowing for greater precision and burr-free edges.
- Helical drilling is much like trepanning, but without the starter hole. Instead, the laser begins drilling through the material immediately, starting from the center and moving outward until the desired diameter is achieved. The laser beam’s focus can be adjusted in real time through the drilling process, ensuring the hole is consistent in measurement from top to bottom.
Industries Commonly Using Laser Drilling
Superior speed and significant reductions in operating costs over alternative methods have led to widespread use of lasers for drilling in a number of industries. For macro and micro applications, lasers are finding their home in a wide range of uses, from oil and gas drilling to holes as small as 20 microns in medical and solar industries.
- Medical Device Manufacturing industry uses laser drilling for plastics, metals and glass.
- Pharmaceutical industry osmotic pump release tablets are increasingly being laser drilled at speeds as high as 140,000 tablets/hr, while maintaining extremely close tolerances.
- Automotive industry uses include a wide range of materials like metal, plastic, and fabric.
Custom Designed Laser Drilling Solutions
CMS Laser has provided solutions for high throughput manufacturing lines around the world (see our Client List). Our team will provide you with state of the art laser drilling systems. Each machine is designed and built to provide you with a solution for your needs. Our extensive testing and verification of process gives you a system that will work in conjunction with your current manufacturing processes, with high reliability and low Cost of Ownership