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Microdrilling of metallic materials for engineering applications


Objectives and content:

The manufacturing industries of engineering components involving micro-drilling are presently facing two main challenges: the capability of drilling smaller holes than those actually achieved with the available techniques and the capacity of increasing productivity and decreasing costs in the micro-drilling operation. Both challenges have a common answer: new technologies or improvement of actual performances of existing technologies. Mechanical drilling, ECM (Electro-Chemical Machining), EDM (Electro-Discharge Machining) and Nd-YAG laser drilling are well established technologies used industrially to drill holes in the range of 150m to few millimetres. The micro drilling of harder materials (500 HV), using conventional techniques is presently limited to 125 m. However, several applications, as for example in the aeronautics (turbine components: combustors and turbine blades), automotive (diesel nozzles injectors), microelectronics and medical fields, would significantly benefit if the actual technological constraints to drill smaller holes will be overcame. On the other hand, developments in the existing technologies able to provide higher production rates and better process control, would prove to be an important step forward in the existing technologies performance .In a highly competitive industry such as the aeronautics where the manufacturing of combustors involve the drilling of many thousands of holes with diameters in the range of 400-600 m, the development of processes that would allow the drilling of smaller holes at higher production rates would represent an vital step forward. A trend for the future of the automotive industry is the development of direct injection petrol engines, for which is crucial to develop manufacturing systems able to perform holes, perpendicular and oblique to the injector, with an average 80 m diameter in order to increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution levels. The electronics industry is another potential industry whose development towards higher miniaturisation requires higher machining precision to resistor trimming and mi.

This proposal is developing from a successful CRAFT feasibility award, whose main objectives were the searches of new technological solutions for the high precision machining and micro-drilling of engineering materials. The feasibility study showed the potentiality of different advanced techniques to fit industrial objectives. The laser, electro-discharge machining and electron beam were the processes explored. Therefore, the ultimate goal for the present project is twofold: the development of technologies which will allow the micro-drilling of holes lower than 125 m in diameter, in metallic materials with thickness around 1 mm, and the development of existing and industrially established technologies to allow higher processing speeds and better processing control. Conformance with health and safety legislation is a common issue to both research directions.

The industrial objectives pursued by the present project are:
- development of the electron beam process for micro-drilling of large batches with high production rates;
- development of the copper vapour laser (CVL) and doubled frequency Nd:YAG laser (green laser) processes to industrial reliable systems by means of parameter control and definition of technical strategies;
- assessment of EDM technology as a reference process to compare developments to be achieved in other technologies.

The processes development is expected to lead to consistent, reproducible and controlled techniques to perform holes with diameters lower than 100 m, with good geometrical characteristics(circularity and parallelism). Although, very dependent on the envisaged application it is expected that the proposed developments lead to improvements in production by a factor of 5-10 compared to existing technologies and to an increase in quality in terms of being able to decrease the size of holes by a factor of 2.At the end of the project, 2-3 years of tests and additional development are expected to be necessary for industrial implementation of the processes underresearch. BE97-4661

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Higar Engineering Ltd
Station Road
BH25 6IQ Bournemouth
United Kingdom

Participants (7)

A.PNE.S. Srl
147,Frazione S. Antonio
10081 Castellamonte
United Kingdom
Culham Science Centre D1
OX14 3ED Abingdon
Howth Junktion Business Park
1 Dublin
Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade
Tagus Park
2781 Oeiras
Lasindustria SA
Rua Francisco Antonio Da Silva
2780 Oeiras
Rolls Royce PLC
United Kingdom

DE2 8BJ Derby
Rtm - Istituto per le Ricerche di Tecnologia Meccanica e per l'Automazione SpA
Regione Lime
10080 Torino - Vico Canavese