Laser drilling is increasingly being used in fabrication of small components in various materials with applications in aerospace, automotive, electronics and medical industries, and it offers a unique combination of benefits for the contemporary manufacturing industry as a rapid, precise, clean, flexible, and efficient process. Laser drilling involves a stationary laser beam which uses its high power density to melt or vaporize material from the workpiece, and the process is governed by an energy balance between the irradiating energy from the laser beam, the conduction heat into the workpiece, the energy losses to the environment, and the energy required for phase change in the workpiece. There are three major mechanisms of removal of material from the beam interaction zone and consequent propagation of the melt front into the metal bulk. They are (1) melt ejection due to interaction between the melt and an assisting gas, (2) melt ejection by the vaporization-induced recoil force, and (3) melt evaporation. The results of laser drilling processes, such as the profile of the heat affected zone (HAZ) and the geometry of the holes, strongly depend on settings of the laser parameters such as peak power, pulse length, pulse repetition rate, number of pulses, focal condition, etc. In addition, the processing results are strongly influenced by geometrical and material properties of the workpiece. This paper presents theoretical and experimental studies of laser drilling of micrometer size holes on metal sheets using a pulsed Nd:YAG laser. A model of the temperature distribution and the motion of the melting front for laser drilling is presented and compared with experimental data. Effects of laser parameters on the resultant geometry of the hole are investigated and summarized, and an optimum procedure for laser drilling of small holes on metal sheets is outlined.

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