Laser drilling relies on lasers to heat, melt and vaporize a material—causing it to increase in volume. The resulting pressure quickly expels the vaporized material, leaving behind the hole.
Compared to other drilling methods, lasers offer superior speed and precision while lowering operating costs. As a result, they’re finding a home in a variety of industries, from automotive to medical device manufacturing.
They also play an important role in the pharmaceutical industry—drilling osmotic pump tablets at high speeds while maintaining extremely close tolerances.
The most basic laser drilling method is single pulse drilling—a simple, clean and fast process that has led to several variations, including:
- Percussion drilling. This method is similar to single pulse drilling, but instead of using one large burst of energy, it uses several short, lower-energy bursts. Percussion drilling lets you create deeper, more accurate holes. Because less material vaporizes with each pulse, you can also drill holes with smaller diameters.
- Trepanning. During this process, the laser works like a drill bit. First, the beam pierces a hole in the material. It then enlarges the hole by moving outwards in an ever-increasing circular pattern. Trepanning is a highly precise process that creates larger holes with burr-free edges.
- Helical drilling. This method is similar to trepanning except it doesn’t make a starter hole. Instead, the laser drills through the material immediately—starting from the center and moving outwards until it achieves its desired diameter. You can adjust the beam’s focus in real time, ensuring hole measurements are consistent.