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Understanding the Amazing Potential of Laser Drills in Industrial Design


Understanding the Amazing Potential of Laser Drills in Industrial Design

How laser technology improves product design

The ability to drill extremely small holes in materials in the pattern of your choosing is one of the most exciting applications for laser tools today. Whether it’s tiny holes that enable the passage of energy or matter or light through solid materials, it’s now possible to create a precisely designed reality that is essentially invisible to the human eye.
Industrial designers are increasingly exploring the use of laser drills to add remarkable, virtually undetectable elements to a range of consumer products. With their speed and accuracy, laser drills can achieve a level of quality and precision at high-volumes that mechanical tools can’t match. Lasers offer uniform diameters, precise positional accuracy, minimal surface residue and debris-free results. Lasers also let you shape holes from back to front to create unique shapes, such as a microscopic venturi, so you can actually tune your holes to consistently achieve desired audio, visual, or other design results.
To be invisible to the naked eye, holes need to be 40 microns in diameter or smaller. There are 25,400 microns in an inch and the image below helps to put a micron sized hole in perspective. As you might imagine, it doesn’t take long to create a micron-sized hole using a laser. And in fact lasers can drill thousands of them per second through a wide array of materials, making lasers practical even for very high-volume consumer products applications.
Working with Light: Imagine that perforations at different angles and of the right size pass different colors or light that people see in ways you can control with unprecedented precision. For example, if perforations angled to the right have red LEDs, perforations angled up have green LEDs, and perforations angled to the left have blue LEDs, you can then combine them to show the full spectrum of colors from what appears to be a solid surface.
This is a simple and clean way to create display readouts, for instance, that can change color to show a status change. Micro-perforations have the potential to change lighting and create an unparalleled user experience in wearables, consumer electronics, automotive or high-end design, adding eye-catching details that transform the emotive quality of the device, or environment.
Working with Gases: Micro- and nano-perforation technology can be used to make sensors which are inconspicuous for high-end applications that enhance every day living. Imagine smoke detectors in homes that blend into the natural environment or sensors of biochemical agents built seamlessly into mass transit or airplanes.
Working with Fluids: Most of us come in daily contact with a fluid product processed using micro-perforations. Fruit and vegetable juices are extracted through 0.3mm diameter holes. Processed water is recovered by removing fiber with screens containing holes 0.1mm and smaller. The next time you take a drink of wine imagine that it ran through a hole smaller than the head of a pin. Not just a single hole, but millions of tiny holes shaped for optimum efficiency.
This field, known as microfluidics, is leading to many remarkable advances. As fluids pass through microscopic holes their properties change. Fuel becomes more controlled leading to more efficient engines. Reactions become scaled for biological creations. Optical properties can be adjusted for tunable lenses. Increases in surface contact spur chemical processes that were impossible in the recent past. Going from 2D images to 2D creations is made much easier with micro-perforations.
Working with Sound: We all learned in elementary school that sound is composed of vibrations traveling through a medium. Similar to light and fluids, we can do amazing things with micro-perforations for sound applications. Imagine how what looks to be a solid surface could in fact contain micro-perforations invisible to the naked eye that allow a voice to reach a microphone, or beautiful music to emanate from an apparently solid wall.
The same technology can be used to deaden sound. As with liquids, a traveling sound wave interacts with the perforations. Varying the perforation diameter, shape and density can allow a designer to tune a wall to absorb specific frequencies or a broad spectrum of sounds. But, we are not limited to sound absorbing walls. Wheels could have perforations to reduce road noise. In fact, windows, doors, furniture, dashboards, heat shields or practically any solid surface can be used to absorb or share sound.

This article was added on Wednesday, 4th of November, 2015 at 06.05 am by author James Latham Tags: lasers, industrial design, microfluidics. Read our copyright policy here.
 

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