Laser Skiving – Micron Laser

Laser Skiving

by Bryan Roberts .

on April 28, 2020

Laser Skiving

Is it laser skiving or laser milling?  Either term is probably OK to use. However, skiving is technically more accurate.  The origin of this word in manufacturing comes from a leatherworking process: To pare (the edge of a piece of leather or other material) so as to reduce its thickness. 

Unlike mechanical milling, typically defined as grinding, crushing, cutting, or pulverizing process, laser skiving is a removal process via state conversion (solid to gas) typically in layers.  Laser skiving falls into two main categories: selective ablation and controlled ablation 

Selective ablation

By far, the most beneficial aspect of laser skiving is the nature of light (or photons) as a tool.  Much like sound waves and surfaces, the wavelength of the radiation is a significant determinant in the absorption, transmission, or reflection of energy.

Take silicon dioxide for instance - A panel of glass is a fantastic transmitter of visible light which is why it is used for windows. However, in comparison to many other materials (eg. most metals), it is terrible at transmitting infrared energy. IR vs visible

Selective ablation is a process that can remove the target material without affecting an underlying material.  This is accomplished by the selection of a wavelength that absorbs well in the target material but does not in the surrounding material.  In the simplest of terms, selective ablation is like an on/off switch - energy at a specific wavelength has a high rate of absorption in the target material (on) and a high rate of transmission or reflection (off) in the surrounding material.  A good example is a compost like copper clad dielectric. In this case, mid-infrared radiation is the best choice with high absorption in the dielectric and mostly reflected in copper.  This process is extremely effective in laminates where completely removing the target is necessary. 

Controlled ablation

  This process requires extremely precise lasers, not only in positional accuracy but also in energy control.  The advancement of diode lasers and high precision media and power regulation in gas lasers has made controlled ablation possible in a wide range of materials including composites. A good example of this process capability is in printed circuits.  Prior to these advancements, controlled ablation was restricted to homogeneous materials like polyimide or acrylic. 

As laser technology has continued to improve, processes for complex composites are now achievable in materials like glass-reinforced epoxy laminates.  Depending on the material, some processes can be controlled within a depth of a few microns. 

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