Laser drilling is a non-contact process that utilizes laser beams to remove material and produce holes. Laser beams, or extremely focused radiations of wavelengths, use heat energy to alter materials by vaporizing or burning away surface layers until a hole is created. Hole sizes can vary in response to motion control, laser power or galvo systems, which are mirrors that can control laser direction.
Laser drilling serves industries such as medical, semiconductor, aerospace, electronics and manufacturing, and is essential for fabricating products including engine blades, irrigation needles, fuel injectors, flow control devices and nozzle guide rings. Laser drilling, which is a laser cutting process works by precision-controlling the heat energy achieved by short, rapid laser pulsations through a combination of CNC machining and CAD computer programs. CAD is the actual computer program that takes the dimensions of the desired tool and tells the computer controlling the machine, the CNC, what to do.
The focused laser beam is able to remove surface layer materials to form holes of varying diameters and depths. Several different laser drilling processes can be used including: single-shot laser drilling, which uses a single high-energy laser pulse; percussion drilling, which uses multiple short-duration, low-energy pulses; trepanning, where a pilot hole is created and then multiple laser pulses enlarge the hole through circular motions; and helical drilling, using multiple laser pulses in circular motions in a downward spiral.
Laser drilling can perform precise high speed drilling in virtually every existing metal and certain plastic materials such as silicone; it can also permit the drilling of holes in exotic alloys not possible with traditional methods such as wire EDM and CNC punching. Materials compatible with laser drilling include mild steels, stainless steels, titanium alloys, aluminum alloys, galvanized steels, nitinol, inconel, ceramics and diamonds.
An inexpensive process, laser drilling has been made popular due to rapid prototyping and the ability to maintain tight tolerances as small as 10-20 microns. It often works in conjunction with other laser cutters to create specialized tools such as gaskets, which sometimes have holes requiring the laser drilling as well as the laser metal cutting machine that shaped it. This is just one example of how the laser cutting industry is vital to the production of the small tools that make our world run. Aesthetically, there are also secondary services available at CNC machine shops that provide laser cutting services, such as polishing, painting and anodizing.
Laser Drilling Informational Video