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Metal Drilling

Metal Drilling

Laser drilling of thin metals

Metal drilling is an important application to many industries including automotive, aerospace, medical device manufacturing, electronics, and semiconductor manufacturing. The need to drill precise holes with minimal extra effect to the metal part is critical to producing quality products.

Laser drilling has become a popular solution for metal processing due to its non-contact nature and minimal heat affected zone (HAZ) on the metal part. Laser drilling is also flexible enough to handle many different types of metal in the same system including nickel alloys, iron, aluminum alloys, copper alloys, titanium alloys, stainless steel, nitinol, and brass.

Advantages of Laser Drilling of Metal

  • Low HAZ: The laser energy is focused into a small, high energy density spot to allow for precise control of heat and minimal effect to the metal outside of the hole. Create micro holes closer together with ultrafast lasers.
  • Flexible hole size and shape: Through simple adjustments to software controls, the laser can be steered in unlimited patterns to create the specific size and shape hole required.
  • Non-Contact Process: Laser drilling does not use any mechanical contact with the part while drilling. This eliminates the need for replacement drill bits or other tooling that may wear down over time in traditional drilling methods.
  • On-The-Fly Processing: Depending on the application, metal parts can be drilled on-the-fly as it travels through the scan field in continuous motion. This allows for increased production rates and ROI.
  • Taper Control: In cases where extreme precision is required, the laser system can drill holes with specified taper angles or shapes using a micromachining process.

Laser Options

Depending on the specific application, different laser wavelengths with different pulse durations can be used to create the desired holes in your metal parts. CMS Laser’s Application Lab has all of the following lasers on site to test to determine which option would be most appropriate for your metal drilling requirements.

  • Low Power Fiber Laser (1064nm wavelength, nanosecond pulse duration): This type of laser couples well with the metal alloy and allows for flexibility in machine design when drilling thin metal. This laser gives more precision and has overall less cost than the high power fiber laser option below.
  • High Power Fiber Laser (1064nm wavelength, millisecond pulse duration): This Quasi-Continuous Wave pulsed laser allows for extremely fast drilling due to its high power in each pulse. This laser is typically used for single shot or percussion drilling to achieve clean through holes quickly.
  • Frequency Tripled Diode Laser (355nm wavelength, nanosecond pulse duration): The short wavelength of this laser allows the energy to break the chemical bonds of the metal alloy directly and ablate the material in a “cold cutting process”. This process allows for high quality, precise micro holes with minimal HAZ or melting. Less raised edge and post processing required as compared to fiber lasers.
  • Ultrafast Laser (picosecond or femtosecond pulse duration): The ultrashort pulse durations of these types of lasers allow for extremely high peak power which is able to vaporize the metal with virtually no heat being transferred to the part. No raised edges or post processing required. Ultrafast lasers are used when extreme precision is required or when micromachining is used to control taper of holes. These lasers are typically used in industries such as medical device manufacturing where tolerances on size and shape of holes and quality of holes are most critical.

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