A new material processing apparatus using a short-pulsed, high-repetition-rate visible laser for precision micromachining utilizes a near diffraction limited laser, a high-speed precision two-axis tilt-mirror for steering the laser beam, an optical system for either focusing or imaging the laser beam on the part, and a part holder that may consist of a cover plate and a back plate. The system is generally useful for precision drilling, cutting, milling and polishing of metals and ceramics, and has broad application in manufacturing precision components. Precision machining has been demonstrated through percussion drilling and trepanning using this system. With a 30 W copper vapor laser running at multi-kHz pulse repetition frequency, straight parallel holes with size varying from 500 microns to less than 25 microns and with aspect ratios up to 1:40 have been consistently drilled with good surface finish on a variety of metals. Micromilling and microdrilling on ceramics using a 250 W copper vapor laser have also been demonstrated with good results. Materialogroaphic sections of machined parts show little (submicron scale) recast layer and heat affected zone.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.