Thursday, November 19, 2015

Laser Machining (LMP) Introduction

The laser machining process (LMP) is defined as the delivery of photon energy on to a target material (in the form of thermal or photochemical energy) in order to remove unwanted material by melting, blowing away, or vaporization. LMP is an alternative to traditional/mechanical machining processes that physically break bonds between materials. With this understanding, LMP provides unique advantages.

Laser machining is a local, non-contact process virtually free of any physical forces. Mechanical machining relies heavily on direct mechanical contact and strong physical force (clamping, blade cutting). Compared to the forces required in traditional mechanical machining, the forces exerted by laser machining are negligible. Aside from the lower overall impact on the work piece, another significant advantage is simplicity in designing and building holding fixtures.

laser machiningLaser machining has the ability to remove minute amounts of material, while mechanical machining does not offer the same level of precision. Resolutions of less than one micron can be accomplished. This near-infinite level of machining scale is very important when dealing with micro-structures or precious materials. Conversely, LMP is not typically a good choice when the removal of large amounts of material is required.

LMP is an extremely accurate and efficient way of removing unwanted material from small targets, making it very valuable in micro-electronics and micro-fabrication. Additionally, laser cutting of thin sheet material (typically less than less than 20mm) is fast and yields a high quality outcome.

The heat affected area produced by laser machining is very small and work hardening is practically non-existent, particularly when compared to the work hardening caused by the high heat produced from mechanical/traditional machining. The elimination of work hardening eliminates the need or consideration of any additional post machining heat treatment.

Machining hard, brittle or abrasive materials (such as ceramics) is very difficult using traditional methods. In these cases, laser machining is an excellent option.

Desired output quality can be achieved in a single process with laser machining, whereas traditional/mechanical machining may require several processes to reach desired results. Laser cutting provides clean and smooth edges with no additional prep required.

With LMP it is possible to drill holes with diameters otherwise impossible with traditional machining methods. The quality of the drilled hole can be very accurately controlled with no burrs or Dross adhesion (oxides formed from heat and agitation). Laser machining is also excellent for drilling very high quality small blind holes, machined grooves, or adding surface texture.

While traditional machining is most likely the right choice for large scale work, laser machining usually provides a greater advantage in terms of economy and efficiency for micro scale work.

Laser machining technology and laser machining processes are constantly changing and improving. New, higher powered lasers being developed in smaller and more cost-effective packages, allowing for broader adoption and greater use of LMP.  Laser machining provides manufacturers a non-contact, flexible and accurate machining process, applicable to a wide range of materials, as an excellent choice for use in micro-structures and electronics - typical of those used in analytical equipment, medical devices, and semiconductor development.

For more information on laser machining or drilling, contact:

21060 Corsair Blvd
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 274-1990
Fax: (510) 274-1999