Fast, efficient, quality drilling

Chicago, IL-The long-awaited debut of a high-power laser drilling system occurred at IMTS, where Extrude Hone Corporation (Irwin, PA) introduced its “revolutionary” SuperPulse® Laser Machining System. In an interview, Randy Gilmore, Extrude Hone Laser Technologies, and Michael Armas, business development manager of the Laser Pro­ducts Section, Photonics Division of General Atomic (San Diego), who are company partners in the development of a laser-based diesel fuel nozzle drilling system for the Depart­ment of De­fense, told ILS that the laser used in the DoD project was a Lawrence Livermore Labor­atories concept, commercialized by General Atomic.

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General Atomic Photon­ics Division (www.photonics. ga.com) developed the nanosecond laser source with a patented pulsed format generation. This Super-Pulse System is able to remove small amounts of material from a precise location with each one of the thousands of pulses per second at very high machining rates, precisely, with little or no residual thermal effects.

Gilmore pointed out that this laser can be used for drilling very small (~ 50µm) holes in fuel nozzles, aircraft turbine engine components, and even ceramic materials. Operating in the green portion of the spectrum (532 nm) with pulses in the 3- to 5-nanosecond range at a frequency of 10kHz, this laser can trepan holes in the thin walls of diesel injector nozzles by firing two pulses, one to start a plasma and the second to attack the plasma and use its energy to remove material in nanoseconds.

The interest in fuel nozzle drilling stems from the Environmental Protection Agency’s dictates that diesel engine emissions be drastically reduced by 2007. Small, 50µm holes in a high-precision positional array can produce a fine spray that atomizes the fuel better, resulting in a cleaner burn with low emissions and higher efficiency. The DoD’s interest is that the Army consumes 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel daily.

Asked when the SuperPulse laser would be available, Gilmore said Extrude Hone (www.extrudehone.com) was prepared to take orders now, selling through its global network of offices, and it expects deliveries can commence in the second quarter of 2005. This company has the exclusive marketing rights for the laser in diesel and aircraft markets. At IMTS it showed a nine-axis system which featured laser beam delivery provided by Laser Mechanisms (Farmington Hills, MI). It also has established alliances with Bosch Rexroth and Moore Tool Company to develop flexible laser systems.

Armas described other studies using this laser-including the drilling of shaped output hole and negative shaped (reverse) holes for aircraft turbine engine applications, as well as the cutting of stents, without slag, for the medical device industry-as two very active developments.-DAB

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