The Process of Laser Machining

Laser micromachining is one of the most high-precision advanced micromachining processes available in manufacturing. In fact, lasers are sometimes the only way cut complex or delicate features, especially in thin or sensitive materials. Lasers can cut micron-sized features quickly with sub-micron tolerances, without defects—thereby reducing or eliminating secondary finishing processes, shortening cycle times, and saving money. Because of these advantages, lasers are fast becoming the preferred method to micromachine miniaturized and/or complex parts and products for the medical device, life sciences, and microelectronics fields.

Step 1. Let us know you need us.

As a full-service laser solutions provider, we manufacture high-precision parts to exact specifications, in the most efficient and cost-effective way—that’s our job. We excel at turning even seemingly impossible designs into high-value products that exceed customer expectations.

Our manufacturing technologies, precision laser systems, design capabilities, and cleanroom packaging ensure the highest quality, performance, and longevity for your products. Lasers can micromachine a wide variety of materials, including polymers, metals, alloys, ceramics, and customer-owned proprietary compounds. Our teams have the experience and equipment to develop the most cost-effective laser-machining processes that will meet your dimensional requirements and budget.

Laser Light will help you however we can—even if it is simply a ten-minute phone call to answer a few questions.

Customers seek us out, not just for our engineering and design expertise, but also our reputation for collaboration, innovation, responsiveness, and long-term support.

Our customer base ranges from global OEMs and Fortune 500 Companies to new companies eager to make their first product. Every project is unique—it is our job to create the best process for making it, even if it requires developing new, proprietary methods. We bring this level of commitment and expertise to every project, regardless of scope or complexity.

If you are a previous customer, just call your Laser Light contact to discuss the next project. If you are a prospective new customer, contact our Client Success Team to discuss the details of your project.

Step 2. Design facilitation.

When you bring a project idea to Laser Light Technologies, we work together to deliver positive results, quickly, through the entire product development cycle.

The best way for a company to make a high-quality, cost-effective product, and get it to market quickly, is to bring in skilled partners during the design and production process who willingly engage and share their specialized knowledge and know-how.

Laser Light prefers to share our technical knowledge and problem-solving expertise at the earliest stages of design and development. This allows us to validate a wide range of manufacturability assumptions and develop precise costing, timing, and feasibility data to make the best manufacturing decisions. We work closely with customer project leaders to determine the best laser systems and materials for the project. This approach allows us to bring our greatest value to the product design and manufacturing process, providing clients with the best possible product at the lowest possible cost.

Other advantages of involving Laser Light early in the design process include:

  • Collaborative discussions regarding materials, processes, and manufacturing alternatives to assist in making crucial decisions early in the design cycle
  • Product research and development—we can test out designs and make them better—sometimes turning innovative prototypes around in a matter of weeks
  • Leveraging our expertise and experience to developing design alternatives and production manufacturing solutions
  • The ability to save costly rework in design and prototyping by resolving design flaws before manufacturing
  • The knowledge to recommend using laser manufacturing versus other processing options in the output of precision parts

Depending on results and recommendations, we will then invest in the manufacturing equipment needed to make your project a success, including laser selection, automation, proprietary optical designs, and other improvements. Pulse width defines the three most popular industrial lasers for micromachining:

  • Femtosecond—with a pulse width that lasts 10-15 seconds, femtosecond lasers produce the least amount of heat damage and are critical for the high-precision manufacturing of implantable medical devices.
  • Picosecond—with a pulse width of 10-12 seconds, picosecond lasers have higher average power and are better for thicker dielectrics like ceramics and glass. They provide a nice bridge between the femtosecond lasers and nanosecond lasers.
  • Nanosecond—at 10-9 seconds, nanosecond lasers have the highest average power and are ideal for high-speed processing of polymers and thin metals that have a wider tolerance range.

Femtosecond lasers are gaining rapidly in popularity because they can cut high features as small as 10 microns, with submicron tolerances. As the fastest, highest-precision laser in micromanufacturing today, it can process nearly any type of solid material, including layered, mixed, laminated, or coated materials, with the highest quality and precision.

Femtosecond lasers emit energy pulses that are as short as a few femtoseconds (1 fs = 10-15 s). The ultrafast emittance of these ultrashort pulses results in no thermal damage or heat-affected zones to the material being processed, which is ideal for sensitive materials. Secondary processing is typically not required to clear burrs from cut features or enhance edge quality, saving time and money.

As exciting as these capabilities are, femtosecond lasers are not always the best choice for a project—even when proposed by the customer’s engineering team. Depending on the precision needed, a different system, such as nanosecond lasers, might be just as effective, and cost less. We won’t let you spend more money if you don’t have to.

Laser Light specializes in solving customer production challenges.

For example, when a supply chain partner for a global, top-tier tubing OEM could not keep up with its production demands, it turned to Laser Light Technologies to find a better system. The goal was to perform high-precision removal of insulative coatings from small wires > 0.0095 inches in diameter for a medical application, at a much higher production rate than before. After holding production design meetings with the OEM team, Laser Light engineers built a customized, automated system to advance wire with sub-0.01-inch accuracy, laser-ablate the material to be removed, and perform quality checks, all while improving quality and throughput, shortening time to market, and reducing overall production costs.

Step 3: Designing the laser system and prototyping.

Once your concept has been proven and tested in the development and prototyping stages, you are likely eager to take your product to market as quickly as possible.

As an ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 certified organization, Laser Light provides the precision-engineered laser manufacturing solutions that will make that happen. Laser services include cutting and drilling, wire stripping, and ablation and coating removal at the microscale, with submicron tolerances.

Our innovative and solution-driven engineers use their experience and cutting-edge science to assure your parts perform above or beyond the specs of your design. We deliver consistent, repeatable quality, thanks to high constant speed and automated platforms. Our in-depth R&D reports include scope, approach, results and challenges, and recommendations for follow-up. We also include technical specifications such as type of recommended laser system and materials, set-up needs, energy, masking requirements, inspection and quality protocols, laser processing time, assist gas, post-processing protocols, and cost.

One of the most important steps is prototype development. Taking your product idea from a drawing to an actual working prototype within our laser laboratory allows us to make sure the part performs as designed. This is a critical, fail-safe step that helps eliminate potential manufacturing issues and helps address and resolve possible design flaws. Prototype results are critical for determining optimal machining setup and in-house manufacturing setup. Depending on volume or life cycle needs, laser-cutting systems can operate unattended 24/7, thereby optimizing workflow and reducing operating costs.

Step 4. Getting it up and running.

When you produce a high-demand product, it is essential to get it into the marketplace as soon as possible, especially if it has a mission-critical purpose. We also have the ability to scale your customized laser machining system to meet changing volume needs, or new market opportunities. Our on-site customized inventory management and supply chain management systems provide a single point of contact for managing downstream vendors, reducing lead time and costs.

Laser Light engineers continuously monitor and adjust our compliance, improvement, and validation processes to maintain an effective quality management system, with tight tolerances in the sub-micron range. Tools include video coordinate-measurement machines, which are ideal for automated measurement of parts with a wide range of GD&T requirements. Sophisticated vision systems perform automated in-line visual inspections to increase the efficiency of your processes. These automated optical inspection systems are ideal for testing and measuring high-volume parts production, ensuring we meet every customer’s GD&T specifications.

Production reports include:

  • First article inspection reports. Before full production begins, we set up our equipment and do a sample run of your part, measure for accuracy, and send the results to you for verification.
  • Statistical report process control status. We provide updates on our process monitoring, so you know what we’re doing to ensure specification-conforming parts and establish statistical process control.
  • Collaborative validation and verifications. Our engineering and design teams work side-by-side with the customer team to validate the production of a new part or product.

Laser Light performs internal, external, and customer audits to ensure effective quality management. For the external audit, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 are audited separately (different time frames). Our external and customer audits have always confirmed high quality, with no major or minor non-conformities or variances.

Our services do not end when production starts—once the product hits the market, we continue to add process improvements that speed up production and reduce costs for the customer. We also provide the increasingly important ability to quickly scale up or scale down production, allowing customers to respond quickly to sales volume fluctuations, new market opportunities, or economic variances, in a way that does not stress or disrupt scheduling and delivery. For example:

  • To help a major medical device OEM ramp up production, we designed a unique, collaborative robotic arm and integrated it into a laser production work cell. Before integration, the production job required several work cells and at least two laser operators. After integration, the same job required only one work cell and one laser operator. This single, strategic upgrade resulted in higher levels of manufacturing efficiency and complexity, greater throughput, and lower costs.
  • Laser Light collaborated with a leading medical device company to develop a customized process for laser-drilling tiny holes in pellethane tubes, a key component in an implantable spinal catheter used for pain management. We designed and built a proprietary in-house system that successfully controlled the flexibility and drilled precise holes every time across the length of the tube. When demand for this part grew over 500 percent, Laser Light ramped up production to meet these high-volume needs without missing a single delivery.
  • A global microelectronics OEM asked Laser Light Technologies to drill thousands of microscopic holes in heat-resistant polyimide film for its industrial printhead components. We created a new manufacturing plan that addressed quality and delivery problems the company had been experiencing in its supply chain. Our engineers provided R&D phase guidance, created dedicated laser systems, and designed customized inventory controls to guarantee just-in-time delivery. We also streamlined manufacturing processes by investing in automation, proprietary optical designs, and other improvements.

Step 5. Just give us a call.

We understand that your success, and ours, is measured in microns.

When you bring a project idea to Laser Light Technologies, our collaborative process helps deliver positive results through the entire product development cycle.

By providing our laser knowledge, problem-solving expertise, and experience at the earliest stages of design and development, we can maximize the value of your product and get it to market more efficiently, at a reduced operational cost.

Our high-performing engineering and design teams, customized technologies, quality control systems, inspection systems, and custom inventory management programs are why 98% of our customer deliveries are on time.

To see if laser micromachining is the best solution for your upcoming project, contact our Client Success Team for an immediate consultation.