How Laser Drilling Works

We’re all familiar with the process of drilling. In the manufacturing process, laser drilling is necessary for a variety of applications. Holes can be drilled in a number of sizes and depths. For example, thru-holes are drilled completely through a material, while other holes may just be a couple of millimeters deep to roughen up the look of the material.

What Is Laser Drilling?

Laser drilling is the process of drilling a material with a fiber laser beam. Unlike conventional drilling, laser drilling offers more user control. The operator can be more precise with their drilling efforts by being able to control a number of attributes about the process. These include duration, intensity, and heat output.

Due to their ability to control all of these unique features of the laser drilling process, the operator can drill a variety of different sizes and shapes effortlessly. One major benefit of laser drilling over other materials is that the laser allows one to drill through a plethora of materials. Some of the most common are stainless steel, nickel, plastics, rubber, semi-conductors, composites, and even diamonds.

With conventional drilling, a different bit must be used to address different materials. This requires a lot of change time between bits or having a number of machines available with varying bits for the production process. Both these options cost a great deal of money and labor to set up.

One really cool feature about laser drilling is that the laser never touches the actual material. It’s a contactless cut that is only identifiable by the hole that the laser left. Conventional drilling usually leaves behind a mark from the machine. As one can infer, this makes laser drilling more desirable for an overall pristine outcome of any product.

How Does The Laser Cut?

When the user attempts to cut a hole in a particular material, they must adjust the laser cutter settings accordingly. Once the drill is activated, the beam’s intensity will start to melt the material. The excess material is removed from the hole as it undergoes a high level of vapor pressure. This pushes the excess material out of the hole.

A laser drilling machine can be operated at a very fast rate. Depending on the diameter of the hole being drilled, a laser drilling machine can create .3 to 3 holes per second. The smallest hole that can be drilled is .0004 inches. There’s simply no denying the fact that laser drilling is a very fast and efficient process that can boost the production of any manufacturing facility around the globe.

Different Types Of Laser Drilling

Laser drilling machines are available in a couple of different varieties depending on the number of lasers that are utilized during the cut. Percussion laser drills are the most common. They use one laser beam for the drilling process. Stepping up from percussion models, one gets into the trepan laser drills. These offer the benefit of multiple laser beams at work.

With a trepan machine, multiple lasers are utilized to produce the desired hole. It then uses the laser to actually enlarge the size of the hole to meet the overall specifications of the project. The laser moves in a circular pattern to drill out the excess material. With trepan drilling, the excess material falls through the hole.

The last type of laser drilling we’re going to discuss is helical drilling. This is similar to trepan, except there is no pilot hole made. Rather, the lasers initially start moving in a round pattern and work their way outward to expand the size of the hole. With helical laser drilling, the excess material actually shoots upward instead of down when exiting the hole.

Who Uses Laser Drilling?

Due to the many benefits of laser drilling that we went over above, there are a number of different industries that use this type of drilling in their production process. These include:

  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Automotive
  • Medicine
  • Jewelry
  • Manufacturing


Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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