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Cost Effective Series and Mass-production of High-precision Metallic Microparts and Optical Structures in Moulds by Laser Submicron-machining


BE95-1228 Cost effective Series and Mass-production of High-precision Metallic Microparts and O???

Companies manufacturing high precision metallic parts have to meet increasing accuracies with decreasing tolerances in both mass-production and for cost-effective series. Parts have to be machined with small holes and narrow slots and/or shaped with accurate curvatures. The technologies used nowadays, like punching, conventional milling, grinding, etching, and electrical discharge machining (EDM) do not give the demanded accuracy in combination with either the speed or the flexibility.

Conventional laser micromachining for cutting and drilling is already applied in industry. Unfortunately, it can NOT be used for the manufacturing of microparts, due to product contamination during laser processing by condensed metal vapour and spatters. Hence an additional cleaning step before the final assembly is required, which complicates the product-handling dramatically. The first objective of the project is to develop an industrial laser microcutting and drilling process that delivers clean products with a processing width of going from the conventional 0.1mm down to 25/ m and with a typical mass-production processing speed (cutting >3m/min, drilling >20 holes per second).

Laser micromilling is not yet applied industrially. The only laser milling system in the market today is the MAHO system that uses a CO2-laser to texture and mill parts. The achieved accuracy and surface roughness of +10 m, which is below the demands for most applications in electronics and automotive industry (e.g. to make optical submicron structures in moulds). It is the second objective of this project to develop laser milling with accuracies and surface roughness down to submicron by using excimer and diode pumped Q-switch Nd:YAG lasers.

A special application of this milling technology, texturing of moulds for product housings, will be developed in parallel. It has advantages over conventional texturing (e.g. EDM) like flexibility, locally controllable, more delicate textures (soft-touch textures), and environmentally friendly.
In order to apply laser submicronmilling for finishing machining a product in industrial mass production, a new lasersystem, the Copper Vapour laser (CVL), is even better suited, in view of its short pulselength (15ns) combined with its high pulsefrequency (30kHz). This enables high speed AND high quality machining with practically no heat-affected-zone. The third objective of this project is to develop an industrial 3D laser milling process for metallic microparts (like spiral groove bearings, micro cutting tools and sensors) with processing speeds going from the present material removal rates of 0.05mm3/s up to 1mm3/s, while the surface roughness diminishes down to <0.51wm. It is therefore essential, as a fourth objective, to develop an industrial 100W CVL with a dedicated optical system (like fibers).

The demonstrator will consists of a prototype laser workstation able to process metallic parts proving the processes developed. A process control subsystem will be integrated.

The consortium comprises two industrial users of the laser submicronmachining technology, PHILIPS (for high-tech electronic products) and BOSCH (for high quality automotive products). They are responsible for process development together with the institute TNO, the inventors of laser micromachining, whose other task is the characterization and analysis of processed products. The laser manufacturer and system house OXFORD LASERS will responsible for the development of an industrial 100W CVL and demonstrator system, with the aim to market this system, while OXFORD UNIVERSITY develops laser beam-handling for the CVL.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Nederlandse Philips Bedrijven BV
5600 MD Eindhoven

Participants (5)

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek
501,Laan Van Westenenk 501
7300 AM Apeldoorn
Oxford Lasers Ltd
United Kingdom
Abingdon Science Park
OX14 3YR Abingdon
Robert Bosch GmbH
2,Robert-bosch-strasse 2
71701 Schwieberdingen
Surfacetec BV
4818 RD Breda
United Kingdom
Keble Road 1- Denys Wilkinson Building
OX1 3RH Oxford