Laser drilling leverages precision laser energy to provide highly flexible and rapid drilling, with many benefits compared to alternative mechanical and electric drilling technologies. Laser drilling can be performed on a wide variety of materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics, diamonds, semiconductors, and most natural or synthetic materials. Laser drilling is a revolutionary technology that enables no-contact drilling from thousands of micro-holes to large and consistent blind and through holes.
Unlike traditional drilling, such as wire EDM, machine drilling, punching, and broaching, laser drilling doesn’t require tooling that wears down and reduces consistency. Moreover, with laser drilling a wide range of hole diameters is possible in the same job without retooling, and laser drilling is capable of very large, depth-to-diameter ratios without a loss of consistency or repeatability. Also, laser drilling is ideal for angled, curved, and inconsistent surfaces, as well as materials of virtually any hardness. Laser-drilling technology and Laser-drilling machines have reached a stage of extreme reliability, and unlike other drilling technologies, there is almost no loss of operational time for retooling, general downtime, and maintenance.
Many glass and semiconductor materials are used in the latest microelectronics and precision machining, and these materials are often employed as very thin and delicate sheets or wafers. Contact machine drilling, such as with a CNC or mechanical-drill machine, have a likelihood of applying excessive pressure and developing cracks, stress fractures, and reducing overall process yields. Moreover, the heat generated during machine drilling can cause edge melting and thermal cycling that weakens the glass or semiconductors and may change its electrical and physical properties.
One major benefit of laser drilling is that it provides a non-contact machining for developing large, and even laser-drilled micro-holes, which has a very small, heat-affected zone (HAZ). Hence, with laser drilling the threat of cracking, stress fractures, melting, and thermal cycling of a glass or semiconductor is extremely low. Moreover, laser drilling relies on the same precision-positioning systems as the latest CNC and machine-drilling technologies, but has virtually no vibration and tool wobble. This allows for laser-drilling machines to provide enhanced reliability, repeatability, and consistency from job to job.
Certain applications, such as medical devices, surgical equipment, or applications requiring drilling of reactive substances, have very strict standards on the chemical and physical composition and debris left on a component. With mechanical drilling, as well as laser and liquid drilling, a wide range of materials and debris are created during machining with these technologies. Additional secondary processes may be required, while using traditional machine drilling, to clean, sterilize, and prepare such substances after a drilling process. Aside from time and expense, quality control mishaps could lead to increased liability and damage to a company’s reputation.
These factors aren’t a concern, however, with laser drilling, as only inert gases are used, and no chemicals or materials come in contact with the drilled material. Laser drilling only demonstrates a small HAZ, and is unlikely to induce enough heat in a material to cause any chemical or physical alteration. The material that comes in contact with the laser drill is vaporized, and not left as a deposit on the drilling medium or drilled surface. This is why materials such as frozen epoxies can be readily laser cut and laser drilled to meet specific application requirements.