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We classify micro-machining applications as follows:
Subtractive manufacturing is the process of removing material from a solid using a laser beam. This includes laser cutting, drilling, marking and engraving technologies. Typically, the laser materials would be metals, polymers or ceramics. The use of a laser beam shows some advantages relative to mechanical scribing. For instance, laser ablation is a non-contact process, without any use of special chemicals.
Additive manufacturing needs the use of a powder to be melted when illuminated by a high power laser beam. Additive manufacturing can be useful for rapid prototyping. Another application is the laser micro-cladding, namely the projection of metal powder on a surface, melted in flight using a high power laser beam and finally deposited on the workpiece.
Lasers can modify the surface or the refractive index of a material. For instance, surface functionalization at the micron scale leads to some colors effects on opaque materials such as metalloïd.The technique of intra-material modification can be found in the parfume industry or wine industry, to insert a readable data matrix to ensure traceability and avoid counterfeiting. Material modification and surface functionalization are the domains which have the greatest research and development today, the possibility to modify or add properties of a material seems to be infinite.
Laser beam joining is a technique used to join multiple pieces of metal or polymer through the use of a laser. By applying highly localized heat via a contactless laser beam an airtight sealing of different materials is possible. Laser transmission welding enables the joining of transparent polymers with minimized thermal impact.