Frequently Asked Questions
The lasers mostly used for laser drilling applications are the CO2 , Nd:YAG, Excimer and Copper Vapour Laser (CVL).
CO2 lasers in pulsed mode can be used for drilling both metals and non-metals. However, particularly for drilling small and/or deep holes in metals, Nd:YAG lasers are more suited due to the better energy coupling at the shorter wavelength (1.06µm for Nd:YAG, 10.6µm for CO2 ), and the higher peak powers and pulse repetition rates. Low and medium power CO2 lasers are mostly used for non-metal drilling applications and for scribing (i.e. a series of holes) in ceramics.
The Nd:YAG laser (fundamental wavelength 1.06µm) is the main laser used for laser drilling of metals, the major application undoubtedly being the drilling of cooling holes in aero-engine components (turbine blades, combustors, etc.). Using non-linear crystals (giving frequency multiplying), i.e. reducing the laser wavelength, Nd:YAG lasers can also be made to operate in the visible or ultra-violet (UV) part of the spectrum.
Excimer lasers emit laser light in the UV part of the spectrum, and are mainly used for precision drilling, profiling and micro-machining, such as micro-via drilling in printed circuit boards/printed wire boards in the micro-electronics industry. They are also best suited for making arrays of holes in one or only a few steps. Excimer lasers are not very suitable for use on metals, due to the low pulse repetition rates.
Copper Vapour Lasers (CVLs)
Basic CVLs produce laser light in the visible part of the spectrum (green and yellow). CVLs are inherently pulsed with a very high repetition rate. CVLs, like excimer lasers, are used for precision drilling, profiling and micro-machining. CVLs can be used on most materials, including metals.
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