The aim of this project was to develop and construct a laser based machining centre, that combines the newest development in micro-machining, scanner technology and UV-laser technology. The association of UV-laser technology with a scanning system instead of a traditional linear axis positioning system can increase speed, precision, flexibility and accuracy of the laser material processing. A further application for such a hybrid system is in the field of laser based refractive eye surgery. Currently in the field of laser based refractive eye surgery, masks are being used to locally ablate or remove surface tissue from the Cornea. When dealing with unsymmetrical eyes irregular ablations have to be made for a successful operation. By using scanning devices, UV-lasers and improved ablation strategies, a more accurate local ablation can be achieved. This micro-surgery of the eye could lead to breakthroughs in refractive eye surgery. Being able to configure each operation to each individual eye, would dramatically improve results and subsequently the general acceptance of laser based eye operations.
The LCD manufacturing process is one example where a hybrid system can be successfully implemented in a production line, leading to considerable cost reductions, higher product quality and therefore an increased competitiveness. LCD components are made up of multiple layers. For the electrical contacting of inner layers, the overcoating layer must be locally removed. Currently, this is done using large clichés (rolls) that stamp holes through the layers. They are individually manufactured and stored for each LCD component produced. The surface of each roll is structured differently with three-dimensional profiles that are used for stamping through the overcoating layer. By implementing galvo scanner devices the use of screens can be substituted and the whole contacting method simplified. The thin layer can then be locally removed by the laser beam.
For the LCD-manufacturing, a process has been developed, which meets the requirements of the LCD manufacturing in time, quality and costs:
- Increased experience in laser based micro-machining with the developed laboratory prototype;
- An industrial prototype of a micro-machining centre has been developed, which combines UV laser technology and fast beam deflection by galvo scanner. The tool is also capable to be used in applications outside the project;
- Pre-clinical investigations on refractive eye surgery by laser ablation at high pulse repetition rates have been successful carried out on porcine eyes.
By using higher repetition rates with a higher resolution (smaller laser spot), a more accurate ablation of the cornea tissue is possible. The higher repetition rate causes not heat-affected zones on the remaining tissue. A software package for improved surgical procedure has been developed.