A Quick Look into Micromachining
Have you ever wondered how small 1–500 µm is? To give you a better idea, the average width of a single human hair ranges from 10–200 µm. That’s a VERY small diameter. Now imagine a laser process technology that can make tiny features that width. This process is known as micromachining, an advanced technology that makes micro features in components with dimensions of 1–500 µm, using micro fabrication processes. This blog post will talk about the basics of micromachining, as well as look into how this market is sparking growth.
How it Works
In laser processing, it is critical to build a system that encompasses a laser and laser scanning solution that fit together to deliver high-precision and stability for micro-sized jobs. One of the most common challenges in this application is the complexity of working with systems this tiny. That’s why precision and ultra-fine levels of accuracy are so important to system integrators.
There are different types of processes used in micromachining, drilling is one example. This process refers to drilling a hole as small as 10 µm on any target material, while achieving smooth edges around the hole. Another process is laser machining, or micro milling. Both terms refer to the process of removing materials to a specific depth, thus creating features such as grooves, slots, and profiles — all done without cutting through the material.
Types of Lasers Used
The most commonly used lasers in micromachining are pulsed lasers as they deposit very small, measurable amounts of energy into a material, resulting in precise material removal, which can be exactly replicated throughout the job. It is this energy deposition that enables the laser to ablate, cut, drill, machine, or scribe a material.
Typical Material Types
We have talked about the different processes and type of laser used in micromachining. Now let’s focus on the type of materials being processed. Typical materials include polymers, glass, ceramics, metals, silicon, solar cell wafers, diamond, and semiconductor wafers. Depending on the application and laser, there are various fabrication processes available. These processes differ in throughput, accuracy and performance. Some examples are:
- Via-Hole drilling: Laser hole drilling on thin materials.
- Flex PCB drilling and trepanning: Drilling holes or removing materials on circuits from panels
- Ceramic hole drilling and shape cutting: For alumina or other ceramic materials to cut or drill any shape or non-linear cuts
- Conductive film patterning: For flat panel and touch screen display processing, for example patterns of a variety of materials like glass, plastic, ceramics, film, etc.
- Solar cell manufacturing: PERC, SE, drilling, edge isolation and scoring
Key Application Challenges that Micromachining Solves
Micromachining and an even smaller field called nanotechnology are key players in solving specific application challenges like manufacturing micro- and compact components, ranging from biomedical applications to chemical micro-reactors and sensors. These two technologies are used in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), referring to technology that allows mechanical structures to be miniaturized and integrated in an electrical structure, forming a single system.
As the market demand for smaller and even more compact devices is on the rise, product miniaturization has become an increasing trend. Thanks to continued technology advances in this field, mass production of micro-sized components designed for micro- and nano-systems has been possible.
The mass production of silicon for the semiconducting industry through micromachining can produce structures inside a substrate, while surface micromachining can make structural thin films on a sacrificial layer.
Increasing market demands in the miniaturization of products and systems has sparked growth in this niche market, forecasting a strong wave of growth for micromachining. According to a report by Optech Consulting, the expected CAGR rate for micro-processing from 2017 to 2020 and 2020 to 2025 is projected to increase by 10% and 7% respectively. In 2015 the global market revenue for low power sources for material processing reached $2.9 billion, with micro processing contributing a whopping 51% of that total. These are all strong indicators of micro-machining’s progression in years to come.
Whether you are interested in miniaturization and how that effects MEMS or simply curious to learn more about micromachining, one thing is for sure, there is a clear potential for growth in this market. Thanks to micro-machining’s advanced technology, manufacturing micro-small systems has helped companies adapt its emerging landscape and drive innovation as well as performance even in the smallest spaces.
Dart Picosecond Laser for Micromachining Applications
- Ease of integration
- Accurate beam boresight
- Excellent beam circularity
- Reproducible beam quality
- Compact footprint
- Optimized for materials
- Optimized for processing
- Minimal downtime
- Remote monitoring
- Ruggedized design
To request more information or a quotation for these or other Laser Quantum products, contact IL Photonics.