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High-Resolution Laser Micromachining

Job Shop Technology
Midwestern Edition

St. Louis, MO — Gateway Laser Services utilizes a high-resolution laser micromachining process to micromachine "very small parts" with feature sizes down to 0.001 inch and tolerances to ± 0.0002 inch. Such high levels of precision are a key advantage of the laser process, which Gateway uses for micromachining of metals and alloys, silicones, ceramics, silicon wafers, and various polymers, including polyimides for flex circuits. According to Mario Vaenberg, Business Director, the company is able to drill holes so small that they are difficult to see with the naked eye.

"Our service is particularly interesting for those seeking very small features or parts with extremely high precision," Mario said. "We are not limited to just flat shapes. We can deal with cylindrical, tubular, or other shapes. The laser process provides greater flexibility than other methods when design changes are in order; adjustments can often be made on the fly."

Another advantage of the laser micromachining process is that it leaves a clean edge without heat-affected zones that diminish the integrity of the material. In one particular case, small polymer parts used for a medical application were stamped onto a die. The parts had a ragged edge from which particles could break off and possible enter the bloodstream. Using a laser-based method to seal the edge, Gateway eliminated the possibility that any loose particles could form and become a problem.

Gateway serves customers in various high-tech sectors, such as medical devices, electronics, telecommunications, semiconductors, and fiber optics, as well as photonics, sensors, optoelectronics, and university research. New and exciting applications are emerging "almost daily," Mario said. "Whether it's a new surgical blade, a next generation printer head, a slot on a silicon wafer, or a part inside a pacemaker, there aren't one or two that stand alone."

The company also introduced laser welding as a service to complement its laser cutting services. "It goes hand in hand with all of our laser micromachining services, including laser marking, subassembly, process design, and product design," Mario said.