High Precision Laser Machining Offers Clients an Array of Options
A variety of stainless steel, Nitinol, and cobalt chromium stents produced by Laserage using its fiber, ultra-fast Femtosecond, and YAG lasers.
Photo courtesy of Laserage Technology Corp.
With about 40 laser systems featuring 77 lasers, Laserage Technology Corp. offers a vast array of laser processing services while continuously investing in new lasers and designing custom laser systems that convert standard laser systems into highly-functional, multiple beam systems. "What Laserage does is we tend to buy a laser head and then we design and build our own specific, capable work stations that do exactly what we want them to do," said Dan Capp, vice president of marketing for Laserage, based in Waukegan, Illinois. "That's how we address that part of our capability. We tend to build our own workstations to make them more capable than the turnkey systems out there."
Laserage (www.laserage.com), registered to ISO 9001:2008 and to ISO 13485:2003 for medical device components, offers extensive laser processing capabilities, including laser machining, cutting, drilling, and welding of precision components for the medical, aerospace, and other industries. The company's recent acquisition of disk and the Femtosecond ultra-fast pulsing lasers enables Laserage to perform laser machining so that smaller features can be attained with both. "If you put less or no heat into the part, you can start making features even smaller," Capp said. "More precision has to do with the way we are designing and building our newer systems. There are better drives, more capable motion systems, and controllers."
This micromachining capability--enabled by the disk lasers--means the company can do thicker-walled parts with precise processing and extremely small cuts. Capp said that some people in the medical device sector, primarily orthopedics, "have thick-walled, heavier parts where you need fine features and more control." Laserage has installed new capabilities for the precision laser medical market, focusing on the manufacturing of smaller feature sizes and increased precision capabilities. The 40 laser systems currently include CO2, Nd: YAG, disk, fiber, and Femtosecond lasers.
For laser cutting, Laserage has the capability of cutting up to 0.187-inch thick material in a 34-inch wide x 34-inch long footprint. Its focus is on micromachining and "cold" laser cutting by ablation of medical device components with ultra-fast pulsing capability. The company is able to achieve precision cutting of complex geometries with close feature-to-feature positioning, such as small hole or narrow slot arrays with close tolerances.
The advantages of laser cutting include minimal distortion on parts due to a small heat-affected zone, intricate part cutting, narrow kerf widths, and very high repeatability due to the accuracy of the company's custom built laser systems. The lasers cut a wide variety of materials, from hardened steel to flexible soft polymers. Laserage supplies small, thin, delicate, and high-precision parts that are laser cut from a variety of metals and plastics, in flat, tube, or pre-fabricated component configurations.
"Laser cutting of difficult material, such as hardened steel, ceramics, and composite material, can solve challenging manufacturing problems," Capp said in a statement. "Likewise, laser drilling of small, controlled-diameter holes in different materials has made it possible to craft unique drug delivery systems and flow control orifices. Over a billion precisely-located 0.005-inch diameter holes have been reproduced in one particular application."
Laserage offers precision laser drilling as an alternative to mechanical drilling, punching, broaching, and wire EDM. "Many times where mechanical drilling won't address the need, it has to do with size," Capp said, adding that drilling a thousand holes in a one-inch diameter stainless steel disc would be impossible for mechanical drilling but possible with a laser. Laser drilling is especially adaptable for small holes with large depth-to-diameter ratios. With laser drilling, a wide range of hole diameters are obtainable.
If drilling plastic, addressing small holes has to do with the different wave lengths of light, and the ultra-fast drilling is the way to address that without introducing any heat, Capp explained. Laser cutting and drilling capabilities in plastics and polymer substrates offer customers the opportunity to select from a wide variety of materials. The laser edge-cut quality spectrum runs from a smooth, fire-polished edge with no discoloration, to an edge with minimal striations, some charring, and discoloration, depending on the composition. Plastic ablation with the Femtosecond laser is recommended for those sensitive applications where charring or discoloration cannot be tolerated.
Laserage's laser welding is a critical service for the medical device industry, in particular, according to Capp. "A lot of their components require parts to be small, clean, and have the least amount of heat put into the welded assembly," he said. "Most of the time in the medical device industry, they don't want to add materials; they don't want to add variables. So if the components are manufactured well, you can weld them together just with the materials on the components, and the lasers do that."
The company's lasers excel at cutting nickel, Nitinol, stainless steel, silver, super alloys, tantalum, titanium, tungsten, aluminum, brass, carbon steel, copper, and more. They also effectively cut other materials, such as ceramics, fused quartz, plastics, rubber, and various laminated and fiber composite structures. Most companies can't work with the high-temperature nickel alloys, but those materials are effectively handled with the lasers, as is platinum, Capp said. "You can make the components precise enough so that you can weld with a laser without adding any materials," he said, explaining that this is beneficial because of the high cost of platinum.
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