Laser vs mechanical drilling

The drill was one of the first tools discovered. Around 35,000 BC, Homosapiens began to utilize bone, stone, and wood to craft rotary tools.  Although the mechanical drill has an overwhelming history (compared to the mere 55-year existence of laser drilling) lasers have several unique advantages over mechanical drilling.


1 Minimized heat effect:

Drilling with a photolytic process (a chemical reaction in which a compound is broken down by photons rather than melting or cutting via friction) has virtually no recast layer.


2 Exceptional precision and depth control:
Lasers do not suffer from the mechanical issues of drill bits (wobble and torsion). Additionally, lasers can produce features 10 times smaller than the smallest mechanical drill bit. In blind holes, laser drilling can be depth controlled via absorption (choosing a wavelength which has high absorption in the target drill material and low absorption in the landing material eg. Microvia formation.)  Additionally, through precise spatial and temporal profiling of the laser’s emission, control depth in homogeneous materials can be accurate within a few microns.

3 Incredible speed:

As photons have no mass, there is no inertia to overcome positioning forces other than that of the optical system (up to 10,000 locations per second).


4 High aspect ratio:

A laser beam does not experience frictional resistance and therefore the depth of the drill is only limited by the optical configuration and material dynamics.  Lasers have demonstrated 30:1 aspect ratios in certain materials.


5 An unlimited number of materials:
A mechanical drill bit works by cutting the target material. This requires the bit to be comprised of a material that is as hard or harder than the target material. Materials like ceramic, graphite, silicon carbide, and diamonds are very difficult and inefficient to mechanically drill as they only can be drilled by bits made from the same materials as the target.  A laser’s ability to remove material is based primarily on the absorption of the target material (finding the correct wavelength).

 

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