Laser Cutting Of Ceramics

by | Oct 15, 2014

Ceramic Laser Cutting

Laser Cutting of Ceramics Complements Traditional Machining Methods …

Precision Ceramics has over 20 years’ experience in the design and machining of technical ceramics for an ever-widening array of worldwide applications.

The markets we serve are wide and diverse; from aerospace and automotive through to electronics and nuclear power generation. All have two factors in common; the quality and reliability of the technical ceramic products we’ve developed for them. And based on this knowledge, our reputation as a solution provider is also well charted and highly respected.

To complement our standard everyday machining processes – which nowadays include 4th and 5th axis machining centres – we also offer laser cutting of technical ceramics using modern state-of-the-art technology to guarantee the most accurate results at a competitive price.

Within our wide range of technical ceramics, there are several that can be laser machined:

Alumina – in various grades up to a maximum thickness of 3mm
Aluminum Nitride – in thicknesses of 1mm or less on application
Sapphire – on application
Zirconia – in thicknesses of 1mm and 2mm

With the exception of quartz and sapphire, we offer all these materials from stock with typical delivery times of around two weeks for a finished component depending on the complexity of the item being machined.

The Laser Process

The two most common laser machining methods are Nd-YAG and CO2.

The beam of a Nd-YAG laser is emitted at a wavelength of 1.064 microns – precisely 10 times smaller than that of CO2. The material’s absorption capability at these wavelengths is what differs. Most metals, for instance, are highly reflective and therefore, a Nd-YAG laser is more commonly used. As most non-metals, including ceramics, don’t absorb a single micron, their machining is better suited to the CO2 laser.

In addition to the wavelength, there are a number of other performance differences between the two lasers that contribute to the machining quality. These include beam shape, thermal efficiency, heat transfer and power output. The power that is applied varies depending on the thickness of material being processed.

There are two general laser machining processes …

Laser Scribing

The laser scribing process involves the cutting of a series of laser holes in the material. Once complete, the item is then snapped out of the substrate. This process is normally applied to more simple geometric components.

Standard Tolerances

Scribed pulse depth: 35 – 50% standard across all thicknesses

Pulse spacing: 0.14 – 0.17mm between each laser pulse.

Scribed edge to feature: +. 1/-.05mm

Scribe line to scribe line: +/-.05mm

Laser Drilling & Machining

The laser drilling & machining process continuously runs the laser through the material. This is more accurate but takes significantly longer.

Standard Tolerances

Length and Width: +/-.002” (+/-.051mm)

Hole and Feature Location: +/-.002” (+/-.051mm) from any machined area to hole centreline

+/-.002” (+/-.051mm) from centre of scribe line to hole centreline

Hole Diameter: +/-.0015” (+/-.0381mm)

Minimum Hole Diameter: Single shot: .003” (.06mm)

Drilled: .004” (.1 mm)

Narrowest Profiled Slot: 004” (.102mm)

Corner Radii: Minimum .006” (.15 mm)

Whilst these tolerances are standard, we can also accommodate special requirements such as post definition work.

In both new applications and in areas where technical ceramics are already being used, Precision Ceramics has the necessary expertise and in-depth knowledge to quickly find the best way forward for any potential application from prototypes through to full-scale production of components with typical tolerances ranging from +/- 0.02mm on thickness.

Interested in finding out more and if any of our materials are the right fit for your application? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Related topics:

Ceramics Machining & Grinding

Precision Ceramics has extensive experience with high-tolerance advanced ceramic milling, grinding and polishing of unfired (‘green’) and fired ceramics.

Alumina CeramAlox

Alumina

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Alumina, also known as Aluminum Oxide, is a hard wearing advanced technical ceramic material with strong electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties and suitable for a variety of applications.

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Aluminum Nitride (AlN) is an excellent material to use if high thermal conductivity and electrical insulation properties are required -- an ideal material for use in thermal management and electrical applications.

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Zirconia

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Zirconia is the toughest ceramic material offering high strength, wear resistance, and flexibility far beyond other technical ceramics. Zirconia offers thermal insulation performance.

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