Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Laser microprocessing — a bright future

Laser micromachining was recently defined in a magazine as being “for those who must think small," a good example of tautology (restatement in other words of an idea already stated). I’m often asked to define the term and rather than being tautological I usually say it's processing on a micron scale.

Semiconductor processing and applications in microelectronics fit this description nicely, but the sector on the border line is laser processing medical devices. Is laser welding of implantable devices, for example, pacemakers, a micro or macro application? At Industrial Laser Solutions, we classify this as micro.

As the makers of medical devices strive to miniaturize their high tolerance products such as catheters, thin-wall tubing, stents, and wire insulation — the use of ultra-short pulse laser technology for drilling, welding, and ablating on a micron scale boosted the acceptance of this laser as a means to achieve precision solutions to intricate applications in new materials ranging from memory alloys to polymers.

The "think small" concept certainly doesn’t apply to the market for ultra-short pulse lasers, which has been doubling each year for the past three years — ILS forecasts it will grow 95% in 2012 — and is likely to show more modest growth thereafter only because the base numbers have become substantial. One could get a little cute and say that the laser microprocessing market is "macro".

At Industrial Laser Solutions, we think the micro market, so dependent on the precise nature of the laser processes, has unlimited growth potential.

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