Laser drilling is a non-contact process that uses focused, high energy density, light to ablate material and drill holes in a wide variety of materials.
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:
- Single Pulse Drilling: One pulse of the laser is used to drill the hole. This is a simple, clean, and fast process when it is possible.
- 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: A pilot hole is drilled through the material first using percussion drilling. The laser focal point is then scanned in a spiral shaped pattern starting from this pilot hole and increasing is diameter until the desired diameter hole is achieved. Most molten material is expelled downward through the pilot hole.
- Helical Drilling: Unlike trepanning, no pilot hole is drilled first. The laser is scanned in a spiral shape multiple times, removing a small amount of material with each pass, until the desired hole is completed. The focus spot can also be adjusted downward while the laser is drilling in this helical pattern to ensure the most efficient material removal at each depth through the material. In helical drilling most molten material is ejected upward out of the hole. This method is typically used to create deep holes with large diameters.