Laser drilling – what is it?

ELE Laser drilling

Laser drilling – what is it?

Although ELE has had laser drilling capability for many years, we are seeing a increased amount of  interest – so here is a short article on the subject, that you might find useful.


ELE Laser Drilling facilitiesWe have two  5 axis ND YAG pulsed lasers  in our UK  facility.

The lasers can produce thousands of holes in one component, with diameters as small as 0.3mm/0.012” in size through material up to 15 mm/19/32” thick to a tolerance of 0.01mm/0.001” using percussion and trepanning drilling techniques.

OK, but what’s a YAG Laser ? I hear you say

This is a bit techie,  but I have tried to simplify it as follows;

A  Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet; Nd:Y3Al5O12) is a crystal that is used as a lasing medium for solid-state lasers and it is the neodymium ion which provides the lasing activity in the crystal.

Interestingly the first demonstration of the Nd:YAG Laser was by J. E. Geusic at Bell Laboratories in 1964, not that long ago and is still seen as relatively new technology.

At ELE we use Pulsed Nd:YAG lasers, which are typically operated in the so-called Q-switching mode.

Put simply, this means that an optical switch is inserted in the laser cavity and waits for a maximum population inversion in the neodymium ions before it opens. Then the light wave can run through the cavity, depopulating the excited laser medium at maximum population inversion. In the Q-switched mode, output powers of 250 megawatts and pulse durations of 10 to 25 nanoseconds can be achieved.

So what does this allow us to do for our customers? 

The laser can be used in both aerospace and industrial gas turbine applications to drill cooling holes for enhanced air flow/heat exhaust efficiencies in super alloys.

At ELE our Nd:YAG lasers are used  to support customer requirements for things such as Heat Shields – found on the Eurofighter, where a combination of percussion drilling, followed by the trepanning of the same hole, using the laser beam, in order to reduce recast layer and gives a more circular hole.

We drill Nozzle Guide Vanes  and turbine blades in super alloys, for both Aerospace and Industrial applications. With holes as small as 0.3mm it is a very efficient and quick way to drill a large volume of hole, with configured precision. We can even drill through Thermal Barrier Coatings without delamination of the coating.

Need to know more?

Please get in touch with Peter Palij, our Commercial Director, if you would like to know more about the options available from using laser drilling.



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