In the recent decade the laser drilling process has continually attracted new interests and has found increasing applications in the industry. Nowadays the most common industrial laser sources for laser drilling are the solid state ones with pulse length of the order of milliseconds, even if nanosecond and femtosecond pulse sources can also be found in industrial applications. The latter, short and ultrashort laser sources, are very promising since they are expected to generate the hole directly by vaporisation, leaving the hole surfaces free of molten and resolified layer, as well as very low amount of spatter. This paper reports an experimental study on microhole laser machining and on influence of some process parameters on the hole shape. The laser source used in the study was a pulsed, diode pumped, Q-switched Nd:YAG laser. The materials investigated were four different alloys (AISI 304 stainless steel, cp titanium, CuZn35 brass and IN718 alloy), provided as 0.5 mm thick commercial sheets. Since an experimental approach has been here preferred, the performed experimental plan has been designed by the analysis of variance technique. The influence of material type, as well as laser process parameters, like pulse frequency and pulse energy, have been investigated. Relevant geometrical features, like top and bottom hole diameter, taper angle, top and bottom aspect ratio, have been measured and analysed. Moreover, the geometric features of the top spatter as well as the metallurgical characteristics of heat affected zone has been investigated. The results have shown that pulse energy strongly affects both geometric and metallurgical hole features. On the other hand, pulse frequency does not seem to influence the hole shape in all material. The presence of spatter and metallographic analysis confirmed the production of molten layers in all material mainly around the hole entrance.

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