As discussed in a previous blog, in the medical devices and diagnostics market, devices are getting increasingly smaller with dimensions approaching the 1µm level*. This has necessitated the need for laser micromachining. Airing recently was able, through a relationship with a world-class company, to gain priority access to such technology.
Priority access to a laser micromachining system is just one of the benefits of our freedom from reliance on subcontracted work for our laser micromachining system requirements. Another is our newly acquired capability to take advantage of the direct write method when delivering laser energy. This blog takes a little deeper dive into this technology process.
There are two ways to target laser energy. “Direct Write” is one method; the other is via “Mask-Projection”. Each has its advantages and drawbacks.
The mask-projection technique can be costly as the creation, storage, maintenance, inspection, and correction of each mask can cost over $5,000. And it is also time-consuming to produce a mask, a process that can take over 3 weeks from start to delivery of the finished mask. With this technique, the laser energy is delivered selectively according to what parts of the beam pass through the mask. Think of it as a negative of the mask.
The direct write method is more versatile, and flexible and is lower in cost. It is ideal for the development of prototypes because it facilitates the iteration process. Here a beam of laser energy is aimed at its target serially, and micromachining is accomplished by changing the placement of the beam through adjustments such as the angle of beam delivery, to achieve the desired pattern. This process is sequential and the pattern is created on a point-by-point basis. The creation of each sample piece takes more time than it would using the mask technique, but when producing only a few pieces for design and testing purposes, this extra time is trivial when compared to the weeks needed for creation of a mask.
With access to direct write technology were are able to iterate faster and our cycles of learning are becoming shorter. We are making excellent progress on the completion of the prototype.
* 1µm (1 micron or micrometer) = 0.001 millimeter = 1 millionth of a meter
For reference, a human hair about 100 µm in diameter.