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Laser Micromachining of Polyimides

laser polymers
The above pictures show parts with feature size of .004-.008".

Polyimides have found many applications in different industries such as electronics, medical, aerospace, plus numerous applications in commercial goods.

Unique properties of polyimides, such as high-working temperature, resistance to radiation, low flammability and smoke emission, wear resistance, good dielectric properties and chemical stability make them top materials of choice for design engineers. Polyimides, such as Kapton, Vespel, Upilex, Kinel and Robon are available commercially in sheets, film, tube or rod shapes.

Major applications include multilayer thin metal/dielectric "sandwiches" for flexible circuits used in the electronics industry, small parts for medical applications, ink jet printer heads, flow devices, drug delivery systems and masks.

Most of these applications require precise machining using various technologies. Machining of holes, slots, cutting of small parts from polyimide or multilayer films has always been the application of choice for conventional laser cutting using carbon dioxide lasers. A highly-concentrated laser beam delivers heat energy to a desired location, thereby raising the temperature on the work piece and "cutting" through the material. The melting/evaporation technique is suitable for low-end applications when edge quality is not a concern.

New requirements for miniaturization in all industries bring the need for greater precision in the machining process. We havp developed a unique technology based on the photoablation/decomposition of polymers.       

laser polymer

Traditional Carbon Dioxide laser
(hole = .020" Dia.)



Decomposition based Laser Micromachining
(hole = .020" Dia.)

The above pictures demonstrate the comparison of machining polyimides for flexcircuits using a traditional Carbon Dioxide laser (left picture; hole = .020" Dia.) and decomposition based Laser Micromachining (right picture; hole = .020" Dia.)

The process is dry and non-contact yielding 100% in part production. There is no heat-affected zone or other damage to the material. The smallest feature that can be produced is .001" in size with an accuracy of placement of .0005" within a 12" square work area.

Additional methods have been developed suitable for other materials: ceramics, metals, semiconductors, composites, multilayer structures, selective removal of one material from another (polymer from metal, gold from ceramic, Si from glass), etc.