Besides carbide and tungsten, light is an appropriate “tool material” for micro-holemaking. Although most laser drilling is performed in the infrared spectrum, the SuperPulse technology from The Ex One Co., Irwin, Pa., cnc milling machine uses a green laser beam, said Randy Gilmore, the company’s director of laser technologies. Unlike the femtosecond variety, Super- Pulse is a nanosecond laser, and its green light operates at the 532-nanometer wavelength.
The technology provides laser pulses of 4 to 5 nanoseconds in duration, and those pulses are sent in pairs with a delay of 50 to 100 nanoseconds between individual pulses. The benefits of this approach are twofold. “It greatly enhances material removal compared to other nanosecond lasers,” Gilmore said, “and greatly reduces the amount of thermal damage done to the workpiece material” because of the pulses’ short duration.
The minimum diameter produced with the SuperPulse laser is 45 microns, but one of the most common applications is for producing 90μm to 110μm holes in diesel injector nozzles made of 1mm-thick H series steel.cnc milling machine Gilmore noted that those holes will need to be in the 50μm to 70μm range as emission standards tighten because smaller holes in injector nozzles atomize diesel fuel better for more efficient burning.
In addition, the technology can produce negatively tapered holes, with a smaller entrance than exit diameter, to promote better fuel flow.
Another common application is drilling holes in aircraft turbine blades for cooling. Although the turbine material might only be 1.5mm to 2mm thick, Gilmore explained that the holes are drilled at a 25° entry angle so the air, as it comes out of the holes, hugs the airfoil surface and drags the heat away. That means the hole traverses up to 5mm of material. “Temperature is everything in a turbine” he said, “because in an aircraft engine, the hotter you can run the turbine, the better the fuel economy and the more thrust you get.”
To further enhance the technology’s competitiveness, Ex One developed a patent-pending material that is injected into a hollow-body component to block the laser beam and prevent back-wall strikes after it creates the needed hole. After laser machining, the end user removes the material without leaving remnants. “One of the bugaboos in getting lasers accepted in the diesel injector community is that light has a nasty habit of continuing to travel until it meets another object,” Gilmore said. “In a diesel injector nozzle, that damages the interior surface of the opposite wall.”
Although the $650,000 to $800,000 price for a Super- Pulse laser is higher than a micro-holemaking EDM, Gilmore noted that laser drilling doesn’t require electrodes. “A laser system is using light to make holes,” he said, “so it doesn’t have a consumable.”
Depending on the application, mechanical drilling and plunge milling, EDMing and laser machining all have their place in the expanding micromachining universe. cnc milling machine“People want more packed into smaller spaces,” said Makino’s Kiszonas.