All-Laser Precision Manufacturing Solutions

Femtosecond Lasers Take Polymer Stents from Market Vision to Medical Viability

Posted by Stefan Zschiegner on Tue, Sep 9, 2014

Sept 9 Raydiance PLGA Stent resized 600

The quickening pulse of medical device design, not to mention the pace of investment by leading manufacturers, points to bioabsorbable polymers as a big part of the future roadmap for coronary stents.

New drug-eluting and bioabsorbable stent designs using polymer materials have the potential to improve patient outcomes while allowing the native blood vessel to heal naturally. Unlike metal stents, the biodegradable materials dissolve and can be completely absorbed by the body over time.

Regulatory approvals and the investment required to bring a new stent to market propel substantial design innovations that result in improved patient outcomes—and challenge manufacturers to identify how to cost-effectively machine these new biodegradable polymer materials and micro-features.

Femtosecond lasers are already emerging as the enabling technology to commercialize complex, next generation stent designs with more intricate patterns and shrinking stent sizes which enable deeper access to smaller spaces in the cardiovascular system.

Bare Metals to Polymers

Little more than twenty years ago, the introduction of vascular stents transformed the treatment for coronary atherosclerosis disease and immediately improved patient outcomes. Turning angioplasty procedures into minimally invasive techniques, the use of coronary stents keeps arteries and blood vessels open around the heart.

The first generation of both coronary and peripheral stents was designed from bare metals, like 316L stainless steel, and dramatically reduced the risks of restenosis (narrowing of the blood vessel) or thrombosis (blood clots) when compared with earlier medical interventions. 

Bare metal stents (BMS) material continues to evolve with the introduction of better-performing gold, platinum, nitinol, cobalt chromium and memory shape alloys to improve device delivery, flexibility and residual strength. 

Medical device manufacturers quickly turned from mechanical tooling and fabrication methods to laser micromachining of bare metals in order to reduce the thermal effects and melt areas, recast or burrs which require costly acid etching, bead blasting and interior dimension honing re-work to correct.

But even longer-pulse lasers diffuse heat and heat affected zone (HAZ) damage to stents, limiting design and features while creating time-consuming, post-processing steps to meet quality control.

As the market shifts from bare metals to polymer stents, today’s longer pulse continuous wave (CW), nanosecond and picoseconds lasers are not capable of processing the heat-sensitive, biodegradable polymers.

Drug-eluting stents (DES) promise to deliver drugs more effectively to the target treatment area over a longer period of time, improving vessel wall healing and further reducing the risks of inflammation. The three DES components are the bare metal scaffold, the drug and the biodegradable polymer coating that carries the drug.

Polymer bioresorbable vascular stents (BVS), including poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) and poly lactide-co-glycolic acid (PLGA), elute 100% of the drug as prescribed before the stent is completely absorbed by the body within a matter of months. The polymers will dissolve to nontoxic byproducts and disappear, enabling the body and arteries to return to a more natural healing process.   

All-Laser Solutions Enable Innovations Roadmap

Biodegradable polymer stent materials require system flexibility, precise energy and an ultrashort femtosecond laser pulse width – in the one quadrillionth of a second regime– to achieve true athermal laser processing. This eliminates heat transfer or damage during manufacture as well as any risks to device integrity or performance with one-step, non-contact processing that delivers superior part-to-part consistency.

Raydiance’s all-laser precision manufacturing solutions enable rapid prototyping and ROI with seamless transition of new parts from design to production. This makes validation of production processes relative to regulatory requirements straightforward and predictable—also enabling the future innovations roadmap for medical device applications.

Visit Raydiance’s R-Tube specifications online to learn more about polymer stent cutting or meet with us during the Lasers for Manufacturing Event in the Chicago area on September 23 and 24, 2014.

Topics: medical device manufacturing, stent cutting, single step manufacturing, medical polymers

Bezel-less Display? All-Laser Precision Spurs Next Smartphone Design

Posted by Mike Mielke on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

Aug 22 Raydiance Hourglass panel with Micro features resized 600

Smartphones are quickly becoming the centralized, one-touch connection for every activity packed into people’s busy lives.  So essential in fact, a recent Bank of America survey indicates Americans rank mobile phones of higher importance than coffee and television with 46% percent responding they could not survive a single day without their devices.

And recognizing how vital smartphones are to daily life, global brand manufacturers are constantly transforming new technologies, materials and substrates in an effort to outpace consumer demand with design innovation.

But, Manufacturing Challenges Create the Bottleneck for Future Innovation

Ergonomic Curves and Shapes

While everyone is now accustomed to flat, rectangular smartphone and tablet glass panels, new capacitive touch screens, thinner materials, display-to-edge designs with near bezel-less construction and 3-D glass shaping capabilities will usher in smartphone shapes that fit more comfortably in the hand and feature bigger, more responsive display areas.

Smaller, Multi-Tasking Interior Features

An array of micro holes, barely visible to the human eye, may soon replace standard speaker slots to deliver better quality acoustics.  High-density, interior chamfered features created at sub 100 µm require ease of programmability, narrower shape profiles and tighter radius control during the manufacturing process.

As functional display cover area expands to the edge or even wraps around the side of next generation devices, these precision cut-outs and the finished edge quality will be critical to feature performance and accessibility.

Chamfers for Better Device Design and Durability

Edge designs and bevels are becoming more sophisticated. 2.5D chamfers are now standard, creating seamless integration of the display cover and protecting the device from accidental drops.

Yet chamfer can also be the most difficult and costly step in display fabrication because manufacturers still rely on mechanical machining.

Conventional Machining Limits Design Capabilities

Traditional machining methods require new tooling or equipment for each unique design and device display size – and also involve multiple cutting, grinding and polishing steps that continue to drive display cover fabrication costs up.

Current designs and specifications are often standardized based on less risk to the cover material rather than true next generation design. 

The industry hints at sapphire crystal and thinner, more durable glass formulae as the new display standard, but mechanical tools may prove too costly for the transition. Nor can they deliver the micron scale tolerances or production yields required.  And, the 40+ post processing steps used today continue to subject each cover panel to risks of damage and micro-cracks before the finished components are even qualified for final assembly.

All-Laser Precision Manufacturing Takes Micromachining to the 21st Century

As manufacturers grapple with how to cost-effectively fabricate display cover materials and enable next generation device designs, all-laser precision manufacturing presents the viable solution with one-step, non-contact processing for unstrengthened and strengthened glass, sapphire, one glass solutions (OGS), or on-cell technology. 

While picosecond and nanosecond lasers have been deployed for glass processing, the longer pulse produces uneven thermal expansion which leads to uncontrolled brittle fracture of glass and costly post processing steps to repair heat affected zone (HAZ) damage in the display cover. 

Raydiance’s R-Cut femtosecond laser-based solution takes many production steps down to one, removing material with precise control over where the energy is applied.

Enabling a New Cost Paradigm and Accelerating Time to Market

Completing perimeter cut out, interior features and chamfers in a single step, all-laser precision manufacturing typically reduces cost per part of display cover glass by more than 50 percent.

Manufacturers accelerate time to market for new devices using Raydiance’s highly automated, all-laser precision solution to easily move from part to part or device to device on the same piece of capital equipment and factory line.

Designers and process engineers can now qualify a new design, new part or new material with immediate ramp to production, taking months of iterative prototyping down to days using 24-hour print-to-part capabilities that only require simple changes to the software layer.

Ready to put your design challenge to the test? Complete an Applications Request.  

Topics: display glass, glass, brittle materials, consumer device manufacturing, smartphone design, gorilla glass, sapphire, chamfer

Auto Industry Insider: How All-Laser Manufacturing Enables Precision Holes

Posted by Stefan Zschiegner on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

Raydiance Indy500 SAE 2014 resized 600

All-laser precision manufacturing solutions enable a cleaner, greener future by drilling tiny, micron-scale holes in gas direct fuel injector nozzles. The gas direct injection (GDi) technology used on the Formula 1 and Indy Racing circuits is becoming standard in newer passenger cars and light duty trucks. 

Auto manufacturers increasingly refer to direct injection with claims of higher engine performance and power in their advertising.  But the biggest impact of GDi technology is the reduction in CO2 emissions relative to global warming.

Depending on the engine design, GDi improves fuel efficiency between 20 and 30 percent, delivering significantly lower CO2 emissions while maintaining horsepower.  So how does all this happen under the hood?  Let’s review how fuel systems work.

The fuel system is responsible for enabling the chemical energy stored in fuel to be converted into work—making the vehicle move. The fuel injection system largely controls fuel-air mixing in the combustion chamber, which directly impacts combustion efficiency, combustion stability and the generation of harmful emissions. The proper design of the fuel injection system requires significant experimental and numerical methodologies that are routinely coupled for overall engine optimization.

When people talk about engines that use gasoline (petrol) as the fuel source, they are referring to Spark-Ignition (SI) engines because the ignition of the fuel is initiated by a spark plug. For modern SI engines, there are two different types of fuel systems used – Port Fuel Injection (PFI) and Gasoline Direct Injection (GDi).

Port Fuel Injection (PFI)

Internal combustion engines have combustion chambers with intake and exhaust valves that allow for fresh air to enter (via the intake valve) and for the combusted gas to exit (via the exhaust valve). With PFI, fuel is injected onto the back of a closed intake valve. The liquid fuel that is injected from the fuel injector evaporates when it comes in contact with the hot surface of the intake valve. Therefore, when the intake valve opens, air along with fuel vapor enters the combustion chamber. Since the mechanism for evaporating the fuel is the hot intake valve, it is not necessary for the fuel injector to deliver fuel at high fuel pressure, which would create very small fuel droplets that easily evaporate.

It is critical that the targeting of the spray be accurate so that most, if not all of the fuel evaporates and enters the combustion chamber.

Gas Direct Injection (GDi)

In contrast to traditional PFI systems, with GDi the fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber, ensuring that all the fuel is delivered to the combustion chamber. Since there isn’t a hot intake valve to evaporate the fuel, it is paramount that the fuel be injected at high fuel pressure creating very small fuel droplets that will easily evaporate in the combustion chamber.

It is also critical that the spray targeting be precise so that the fuel does not impinge on combustion chamber surfaces (such as the cylinder liner and piston) and create harmful emissions. There are several advantages to GDi including fuel delivery accuracy, higher efficiency, optimized fuel economy and reduced emissions.

Over the last decade, almost all automakers have begun offering GDi fuel systems, as the benefits they provide cannot be overlooked. It is widely believed that the future of the SI engine begins with a GDi fuel system.

Bringing More Fuel-Efficient Vehicles—and Innovations—to Market

While auto engineers and designers aspire to advance the SI engines, incorporating what’s learned on the race track  into everyday cars, traditional fuel injector manufacturing methods (e.g. electric discharge machining or EDM) have become an innovation bottleneck. 

GDi nozzles require micron-scale holes that are not always round to optimize and control fuel spray patterns. EDM and conventional drilling rely on costly tooling and numerous, time-consuming mechanical steps to perfect the tiny, intricate parts. Even more challenging, the iterative prototyping, tooling and ramp to production starts again each time an automotive manufacturer plans to introduce a new make and model of vehicle, so manufacturing systems need to be flexible and allow rapid prototyping.

All-laser precision, one-step manufacturing solutions enabled by femtosecond laser technology drive the industry’s GDi innovations and reduce cost per part up to 50 percent with superior part-to-part consistency (as measured by fuel flow) and highly customized shapes. Mechanical machining and even picosecond lasers cannot cost effectively meet the specifications or complete the drilling process without damaging the material. 

Raydiance GDi Shape Collage resized 600Examples of a GDi fuel injector nozzle and the special shapes for micro holes enabled by Raydiance’s R-Drill™ femtosecond all-laser precision manufacturing solution.

Learn more about automotive applications for Raydiance’s all-laser solutions by downloading the Precision Machining without Heat White Paper.

Dr. Anand Gandhi contributed to this blog post. Dr. Gandhi is a technical expert in the area of gasoline fuel systems. He was with Ford Motor Company for 14 years where he developed a world-class spray and flow characterization laboratory with worldwide responsibility for all PFI & GDI spray/flow analysis. He is also active in the technical community, serving on SAE’s Gasoline Fuel Injection Standards Committee, publishing numerous technical papers, and speaking at forums and conferences held worldwide. In 2013, he started his own consulting company MAHSG Consulting.

Topics: R-Drill, micro holes, EDM, automotive precision manufacturing, Gas direct injection, GDi

Will Medical Devices and All-Laser Manufacturing Advancements Enable the Age of Longevity?

Posted by Stefan Zschiegner on Sat, Aug 2, 2014

Perhaps the only advances in medical technology which excite more than today’s minimally invasive devices and procedures are the ones that will come to market over the next several decades. Medical futurists speak with credibility about the prospect of human beings born today living 150 years, enjoying good health and an active quality of life.

 “I often think that longevity technology sounds like science fiction, and much of it used to be, but it isn’t science fiction anymore.”

– Sonia Arrison¹, from her book 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. (Basic Books 2011)

Can it really happen?  Consider another series of technological leaps that unfolded over the last century. Imagine what people must have thought when the Wright brothers and other early aviation pioneers first took to the sky. Perhaps some could envision a world where everyday people routinely flew on airplanes, but could anyone imagine men flying to the moon –something that would happen just six decades after Orville and Wilber? What about everyday people flying into space for an out of this world vacation? Well, that’s about to happen. And in just a few decades these everyday space travelers will also live to ages that are hard for people to comprehend.

The advances that will make this future possible are here today with the world of micro-medical devices and smart drugs that target specific disease sites in the body. Femtosecond lasers help make these innovations real. Let’s look at one example where these solutions are enabling patient outcomes not possible just a decade ago.

Artificial heart valves no longer need to be installed via an open heart procedure, requiring weeks of expensive hospital recovery time, risk of infection and an array of complications including death. Today, valves are mounted on stent-like scaffolding wrapped around a balloon catheter.

July23 Raydiance Heart Valve Applications resized 600

The compact device is delivered to the heart via an incision in an artery or through the chest wall and moved into position where the balloon is inflated to deploy the scaffolding holding the valve. The scaffolding is designed to anchor in just the right place; the balloon is deflated and retracted from the site while the new valve remains in place.

Some of the issues identified in early technology and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) system design for treatment of valvular heart disease included the need for low profile designs to improve deliverability of the prosthetic valve and the capability to reposition the valve during implant. Raydiance’s all-laser solutions enable manufacturers to re-design TAVR products and streamline the manufacturing process for several key micro components. A larger population of patients, who were not previously considered candidates, can now be treated for TAVR.

Femtosecond lasers backed by optimized control software are capable of creating perfectly uniform scaffolding struts. This uniformity is directly responsible for the perfect fit when a new valve is deployed. There are other mechanical methods to create heart valve scaffolding, but these production techniques are slow and expensive relative to all-laser manufacturing.  

As medical device designs and device delivery systems become more complex and the micron scale features more intricate, the heat used in conventional micromachining processes to produce parts—including EDM and picosecond or nanosecond laser processing—create mechanical stress and flaws in nitinol, bare metals and new polymers or heat-sensitive bioabsorbable materials. This significantly impacts product performance and requires multiple post-processing steps, from cleaning, honing and deburring to etching and polishing, to “fix” the problems caused by manufacturing. 

In sharp contrast, the all-laser approach fast-tracks medical device manufacturing to the 21st century with one-step precision, superior part-to-part consistency, reliable performance and rapid innovation.

If babies born today are predicted to enjoy life well into the 22nd century, the human race will require medical devices and technology that everyone can afford. Femtosecond laser-based advancements may well prove to be the enabling solutions.  

Request more information about Raydiance’s Medical Applications

1. Sonia Arrison is a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and a columnist for TechNewsWorld. Her work has appeared on CNN and in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. She lives in Atherton, California.

Topics: medical device manufacturing, implantable medical device manufacturing, micro manufacturing

Display Glass Chamfer: Complex Design Challenge or All-Laser Solution?

Posted by Mike Mielke on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

Remember the Apple® iPhone® 5 video of Jony Ive describing his “diamond cut chamfered edges?” If you’re not a mechanical engineer, this may have been the first time you heard the term “chamfer.” It turns out that chamfers are critical design aspects of nearly all portable consumer devices, including smartphones and tablets. The chamfer also happens to be one of the hardest aspects of device design to manufacture.

Apple iPhone 5 manufacturing process 004 resized 600  iPhone 5 manufacturing process chamfer

Photos from Apple's September 2012 corporate video detail the multiple mechanical grinding and polishing steps used to create the iPhone 5 chamfer; Images sourced from iDownload Blog, How the Apple iPhone 5 is Made, by Christian Zibreg, September 12, 2012. 

Today, the hot topic is specifically the display cover glass and the 45 degree edge chamfer in current devices. As new consumer devices begin to feature advanced edge profiles—like round, radius or beveling—and glass or sapphire comprise additional parts of device exteriors, the challenges in manufacturing today’s devices will seem comparatively simple.

Raydiance Blog Chamfer resized 600

Image of exterior and interior chamfer on smartphone display cover glass using all-laser precision manufacturing.

Why Chamfer?

The aesthetic impact of edge chamfer on consumer devices is subjective. The durability impact, however, is not debated. 

From the moment a sheet of glass or other brittle material, like sapphire, is cut into shape for a smartphone, the sharp 90 degree edges represent a liability. During chemical strengthening, or even just routine handling, the sharp corners will chip, crack, or otherwise ruin the substrate for qualification in a final device. The moment of damage is actually quite audible when you dip a freshly cut piece of glass without chamfer into the molten salt bath for chemical strengthening: you hear the popping sound of chips breaking away from the edges. Not good. 

Moreover, the consumer electronics industry learned years ago that 90 degree edges on display cover glass are where defects start, and catastrophic brittle fracture of the device display is initiated. In response, smartphone and tablet design engineers have specified a 45 degree chamfer with depth of 50 to 100 microns on nearly all devices using Gorilla® Glass. As users of these devices, like an iPhone 5s, folks care because this design feature makes the device much more robust against incidental drops, despite the slim form factor and dexterous display screen functionality. 

Everyone should know… Many have accidently dropped iPhones or devices from waist height onto pavement. Often, the damage is limited to a few scuffs on the anodized aluminum or sidewall of the device. The glass display usually survives—thanks in part to the chamfer.

Why Is Chamfer Hard to Manufacture? 

As illustrated before, brittle materials generally break along the weakest path in the grain structure of the substrate. For glass, this can leave a jagged edge since the grain structure is amorphous. For sapphire, the path usually follows a uniform plane in the mono-crystalline lattice, i.e. sapphire cleaves like a silicon wafer. In display substrates from both materials, however, the preferred breaking direction is definitely not oriented at 45 degrees to the surface. So creating chamfer means grinding down the sharp corners in multiple steps, going from coarse and fine grinding wheels to cost-intensive lapping and polishing processes.  

This has worked, to a certain degree, for consumer device manufacturing to date. But the yield is rather low—due to mechanical stresses imposed by grinders—and the only geometrical design option has been the simple 45 degree chamfer. Moreover, sapphire is so hard (second only to diamond in the natural world) that grinding wheels wear out very frequently and will become a substantial consumables cost to manufacturers in making the next generation of devices.

Beyond the known challenges with manufacturing today’s device designs and machining new materials—like sapphire—there are a multitude of advanced device design options that are difficult to produce with mechanical tools. 2.5D and 3D chamfers will create sophisticated edge profiles for the next wave of consumer devices, offering better durability and unique form factors like display to the edge or curves that seamlessly integrate glass and metal.

Manufacturers know they need new fabrication methods, rather than another generation of costly mechanical cutting machines.

Raydiance Blog Exterior Chamfer.jpg resized 600

Femtosecond laser precision enables chamfer, perimeter cut out with tight radius (< 2 mm), and interior features in a single, stress-free processing step.

 Is There A Better Way?

The best way to chamfer the display cover is to avoid the mechanical stress that causes chips and cracks in the first place. The R-Cut solution from Raydiance is an all-laser processing method with no mechanical process steps. Instead, glass or sapphire material is removed to form the chamfer by vaporizing micron size bits of the substrate with each laser pulse. There are nearly a million pulses every second, so the process goes really fast.  Since no mechanical force is applied to the brittle material, R-Cut prevents the tendency for breaking along a weakest internal path. Rather, vaporization of material with the R-Cut’s femtosecond laser enables the final surface finish in one stepand in just about any profile, shape, chamfer, radius or whatever the Jony Ives of the world dream up next. 

Ready to learn how Raydiance enables innovation and next generation device displays?

Submit an Applications Request or join Raydiance on August 5 at the Emerging Display Technologies conference.

Apple and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

Topics: display glass, glass, brittle materials, consumer device manufacturing, smartphone design, iPhone, sapphire, chamfer

CLEO 2014: How Science and Technology Fuse the Future of Advanced Manufacturing

Posted by Mike Mielke on Thu, Jul 17, 2014

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The laser industry’s most important scientific conference took place during June in San Jose, California. The Optical Society of America’s Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) is decidedly smaller than SPIE Photonics West and the Munich or Shanghai Laser World of Photonics events, but CLEO defines the convergence of science and technology with the opportunity to present your best lab and modeling results. Moreover, the invited speaker slots are most highly coveted by leading researchers in the field. Hence, I look forward to CLEO every year to see the biggest technical breakthroughs of the year and say hello to a few thousand of my friends and colleagues. 

In the spotlight at CLEO 2014? While the mainstay topics remain laser sources, biophotonics and new materials for functional optical devices, I saw distinct new focus on industrial materials processing applications and advanced manufacturing, an area also cited in the National Photonics Initiative (NPI)

Why are these topics important at the major scientific conference for the industry? 

They are critical components to growing a healthy ecosystem for the optics and photonics community which, in turn, financially sustains and pulls innovation from the scientific and core technology centers in the field. 

What does a healthy ecosystem look like?  As pointed out in the NPI white paper: industry, academia and government labs must work together to support leading-edge development and dissemination of new technologies and processes.  Specific to advanced manufacturing, the NPI recommends innovation in laser design and laser application, and development of deeper understanding of laser and material interactions. 

I served on the Industrial Innovations Subcommittee for CLEO this year, and I chaired two sessions titled Advanced Materials Processing and Laser Processing for Consumer Electronics. Dr. Xinghua Li’s presentation on “Laser Cutting of Flexible Glass” highlighted successes to date and technical challenges that lay ahead for the consumer electronics manufacturing industry when it comes to device displays. 

The highlight of the advanced materials session was Dr. Nils-Agne Feth’s presentation on “Ultra-short Pulse Lasers as Versatile Tools in the Fabrication of Medical Micro Implants,” where he both demonstrated the unique benefits of femtosecond laser machining of medical devices and called out the industry to accelerate cost of ownership reductions for rapid adoption of this most precise machining tool. 

How will we collectively respond to these very difficult and highly valuable opportunities? 

At Raydiance, our mission addresses this challenge with an all-laser solutions approach to increase industry adoption and lower the cost of ownership for manufacturing lines based on femtosecond micromachining. 

We recently introduced the world’s first all-laser R-Cut precision glass manufacturing solution. Raydiance’s R-Cut has proven that all-laser processing of brittle materials can achieve precision machining requirements without the need for any post-processing steps, such as grinding and polishing. 

Advanced manufacturing is at the top of the list of NPI recommendations for funding and investment. Moreover, the NPI states, “A leading tool for advanced manufacturing is the industrial grade, high-power, ultra- short pulsed laser.” Both CLEO presentations by Dr. Feth and Dr. Li addressed salient precision manufacturing opportunities, and femtosecond laser-based solutions are at the cutting edge of this technology. 

If you’re not yet familiar with it, the National Photonics Initiative is the optics community’s response to the National Research Council’s call for an “umbrella organization to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining competitiveness and national security.” This is a crucial step in educating the public and our government leaders about the role of optics in our economy, national security and health care system, and then in steering support to the highest impact technology areas. 

CLEO is a tremendous facilitator for the health of the overall optics and photonics ecosystem, enabling scientific process and new developing technologies to take center stage.

And, many of the biggest breakthroughs are already happening across industries and factory floors today.

Download our Precision Machining without Heat White Paper to learn how femtosecond lasers are changing the future of advanced manufacturing. 

Topics: femtosecond laser applications, brittle materials, laser for manufacturing, 2014 manufacturing predictions, NPI

Ahead of the Curve: World’s First All-Laser Solution for Display Cover Glass

Posted by Stefan Zschiegner on Mon, Jun 16, 2014

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Looking for the next big thing in flexible displays, touch-screen technologies, wearables, smartphones, tablets, and phablets?  SID Display Week in San Diego was the place to be.

Best in Show, Crowd Pleasers

Folks gathered for a sneak peek of AUO’s new 5.5-inch smartphone display, featuring a narrow border design that results in a mere 0.7 mm width from display area to panel border, Samsung’s curved 105-inch panorama tv display, and IShuu’s wearable technology shoes that change color to match any and every outfit. Trendspotters were treated to a dazzling array of smart watches and new mobile devices with sophisticated 2.5D edge effects, soon to be touting 3D and display to the edge designs.

While designers can quickly imagine novel, fresh display concepts, traditional mechanical processes remain the bottleneck for manufacturers. Current glass-cutting techniques often require more than 40 different steps—including grinding and polishing—which subject brittle display materials to the risk of micro-cracks or flaws and significantly limit design capabilities.

SID DisplayWeek Raydiance booth resized 600

The Solution? A New, All-Laser Cost Paradigm

Raydiance’s R-Cut, the world’s first all-laser precision manufacturing solution, moves device manufacturers ahead of the curve by producing finished parts more quickly with less material waste.

The R-Cut solution is based on femtosecond laser technology and is capable of processing unstrengthened or strengthened Gorilla® glass, one glass solutions (OGS), sapphire crystal, and other thinner display materials in a single, stress-free step with no heat affected zone (HAZ), breakage or damage—revolutionizing manufacturers’ factory workflow and reducing cost per part by more than 50 percent.

Now, mobile-device manufacturers have the ability to develop new industrial designs with previously inconceivable shapes, curves, chamfers, cut-outs, and micron scale features, rapidly taking concept to finished product. 

Future Displays and Devices

Display Week 2014 predictions indicate market shifts to lighter weight, lower cost smartphones, more flexible and functional all-in-one wearables, and more responsive touch-screen displays for consumer electronics, automotive applications, and medical devices.

Those manufacturers able to differentiate products, incorporate new display materials, and bring these future innovations to market quickly are likely to emerge ahead of the curve.  

Complete an R-Cut Applications Request to learn how Raydiance’s all-laser advancements will enable your next device display. 

Topics: display and touch technologies, display glass, glass, consumer device manufacturing, smartphone design, gorilla glass, femtosecond lasers, sapphire glass

The New Tech Frontier: Wearables and 3-D

Posted by Mike Mielke on Fri, May 30, 2014

All of a sudden, we seem to be living in a sci-fi world.

Not so long ago, the most advanced consumer technology available was limited to personal computers. Though bulky and expensive, they became staples of everyday life. Then came tablets and smartphones -- their sleeker, scaled-down cousins -- which made mobile computing easier and more user-friendly.

Now, consumer technology has morphed into high-tech “wearable” computing devices such as electronic pedometers that cheer you on when you’re not being active enough, the BioStamp that sticks to you like a second skin and records heart rate, hydration levels, muscle activity, and other biometric data, and smart eyewear such as the hands-free, voice-activated Google Glass. In fact, Google Glass is now being piloted in the healthcare field: Doctors are testing these smart specs with tasks such as verbally querying an electronic-records system so they don’t take time and attention away from a patient.

May 29 Wearables 3 D Display Technology resized 600While still in its infancy, the ability to shape glass into any three-dimensional form is also emerging as a player, especially in flexible displays, automobile dashboards, and medical devices. The design and usability of automobile touch-screen dashboards, for example, are evolving as consumer demand grows for more sophisticated displays. In addition, the form factor of the next generation of smartphones or tablets may be curved.

Demand Rising for Wearables and 3-D

On a global scale, the market for wearable technology alone is heating up. By 2018, unit shipments of wearable devices in the healthcare, fitness, infotainment, industrial and military fields are expected to reach 210 million, driving $30 billion in revenue, according to IHS Technology.

Not surprisingly, the forecast for 3-D, flexible displays is also trending upwards. The flexible display market is expected to increase to $41 billion by 2020, according to research firm IHS. Since cover glass accounts for about 30 percent of a display’s cost, that estimate implies that the cover-glass market for flexible displays may be worth $12 billion by 2020 as Forbes magazine reported in January.

New Technology = Opportunity

What does this new era of technology mean for manufacturers and other companies? In a word: opportunity.

Designers continue to dream up even more functional, fashionable shapes and devices. Yet the fundamental challenges grow for manufacturers moving from 2-D to new 3-D display forms.

Most traditional manufacturing methods are too limited: They require too many steps, waste too much material and cost too much to bring these wearable and other devices to market. For example, many of them require glass displays that are more intricate than ever before. Interior features also need to be fabricated into curved surfaces and that’s difficult and expensive if done by traditional machining methods.

We have addressed the 2-D problem of processing glass and brittle materials for smartphones and tablets. Now, manufacturers creating 3-D displays for wearables, medical devices, or automotive touch-screen technology face a whole new magnitude of production complexities that mechanical machining simply cannot overcome.

Luckily, with the advances in femtosecond laser technology and micromachining, manufacturers can develop more innovative devices, and do so in rapid evolution from blueprint to prototype to market-ready device. Femtosecond all-laser precision solutions may well enable the future of wearables and 3-D displays, offering flexible, programmable software and seamless manufacturing system integration that easily move from part to part and device to device.

Trendspotting at SID Display Week?
The world’s premier conference showcasing advances in electronic-display technology, SID Display Week keeps us all connected on new and emerging opportunities in wearables and 3-D displays. Join us at the San Diego Convention Center June 3-5 or follow us during the conference @Raydiance_Inc and #SID2014.

(Images courtesy of iStock photos and Dinard da Mata at Behance)

Topics: display and touch technologies, display glass, glass, consumer device manufacturing, gorilla glass, Google Glass, wearables

Phone, Meet Tablet: “Phablets” Gaining Ground

Posted by Mike Mielke on Sat, May 24, 2014

In the continual consumer search for the “all-in-one” personal-tech device, a new trend is emerging: the phablet.

Tablets are gradually shrinking in size while smartphones are gaining in acreage. So-called phablets have screen displays between approximately 5 inches and 7 inches diagonally. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, with its 5.7-inch touch screen and the Nokia Lumia 1520, with its 6-inch capacitive touchscreen, are two good examples of the phone/tablet hybrid. And despite the funny moniker, this two-in-one device is becoming more attractive to consumers, whether they’re business people, stay-at-home parents, or students.

The trend is no flash-in-the-pan. In fact, some trend watchers such as Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes predict that phablet sales will explode from 27 million to 230 million units between 2012 and 2015. That’s an increase of almost 900 percent. In comparison, tablet sales growth will slow to the single digits by 2017, according to the research firm IDC.

Hitting the Sweet Spot
Why the surge of interest in these larger phones? Is it true that size is everything? To consumers, the phablet hits the sweet spot in terms of portability and power. Because of their more diminutive size in comparison to their larger cousins, phablets are more transportable and less fragile. You can toss a phablet into your briefcase or purse and not worry about it.

The real estate of the user interface is also a factor. Phablets’ larger screen displays compared to traditional smartphones means a more immersive video and interactive gaming experience. No more squinting when watching your favorite show or playing games. And when it comes to editing a text document, scanning a spreadsheet or composing an email, it’s much easier to tap a phablet’s on-screen keyboard than the tiny Chiclet-sized keys on smartphones.

Raydiance Phablet Concepts resized 600

Advances in Displays and Touch Screens
The next generation of phablets is on their way, and market experts predict they will be even more attractive and user-friendly. For example, companies such as Samsung and LG are developing smart devices with more flexible displays, as well as experimenting with hinged, foldable mobile devices and even displays that roll up like a scroll.

Even more changes are on the way when it comes to touch screens. Several companies are creating keyboards whose keys pop up three-dimensionally from the screen’s surface when needed, then recede so the screen is flat again. In addition, a South Korean university has built a prototype for e-readers and other touchscreens so that people can flip through a digital book’s pages much like they would with an actual paper book: The more “pages” one reads, the more the pages pile up on the left side of the screen. The argument for this functionality is that it makes the reading experience more tactile, enhancing brain cognition.

Micromachining Challenges
But with this new trend also comes new manufacturing challenges. There is no one single form factor for phablets. Variety is the name of the game when it comes to their length, width, and depth. Depending on the design, the edges of phablets may also be curved, straight, or even have a pronounced lip. As we have written about previously, each type of contour or feature represents a unique manufacturing headache and typically requires a dedicated processing machine. Translation: higher cost to produce.

In addition, the thinner, harder and more sophisticated display materials of Gorilla glass, one-glass solutions and sapphire crystal pose other processing challenges. Traditional machining cannot prevent micro chips, cracks and other flaws. That requires multiple post-processing steps, ultimately slowing market availability and increasing product cost. As we described before, these challenges are inherent with hard materials used for displays. The harder the material—which is great for phablet durability—the greater the challenge.

How can manufacturers develop innovative consumer electronics such as phablets in a nimble, cost-effective and time-efficient manner? A new approach is needed. Femtosecond all-laser manufacturing will enable mobile device manufacturers to address these challenges with greater part-to-part consistency, system flexibility, and a one-step, non-contact process.

Raydiance at June 3-5 SID Display Week
You can learn more about our manufacturing solutions at Display Week, the world’s premier conference showcasing advances in electronic-display technology. We will have information about our all-laser solutions leveraging femtosecond laser technology at Booth #1709. The event will be held June 3-5 at the San Diego Convention Center.

If you found this information about the phablet trend interesting, stay tuned. In upcoming weeks, we’ll talk more about new mobile-technology advances such as wearables and 3-D devices, and report the latest news coming out of Display Week.

(Concept images sourced from Behance. Mobile phone with internal screen by Aleksandr Mukomelov and foldable phablet by Bauke Janssens, courtesy of (CC) Creative Commons.)

Topics: display glass, consumer device manufacturing, gorilla glass, phablet

True Grit: From Academic Upstart to Industry Leader, Raydiance Celebrates 10 Years

Posted by Stefan Zschiegner on Tue, May 6, 2014

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Raydiance. As an old country-and-western song says, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

While not as short as a few femtoseconds, in just 10 brief years, we’ve grown from a tiny startup to an 80-employee strong global supplier of laser-based manufacturing solutions solving problems in the medical device, automotive and consumer electronics markets.

Raydiance is releasing its fourth-generation femtosecond laser solutions, which can be fully integrated into manufacturing lines, while our competitors are just introducing their first-generation products. Our all-laser precision manufacturing solutions are now deployed in factories worldwide. And the products we’ve helped create include life-saving coronary stents, high-tech automotive fuel injectors, and smartphone screens.

‘Everything from scratch’

It all started in a university research lab.

In 2003, Michael Mielke -- now Raydiance’s chief scientist -- was a graduate student at the University of Central Florida’s College of Optics & Photonics. That’s where he got wind of a femtosecond laser project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Mielke recognized the potential of the emerging technology: Ultrashort pulse lasers could have many uses, from treating burn victims to resurfacing delicate materials such as human heart tissue to even sensing and disabling roadside bombs.

The DARPA project was eventually commercialized into Ablation Industries, Inc., and after Mielke received his Ph.D in 2003, he became employee No. 3 in the company. (The original founders, Jeff Bullington and Bruce Garreau, were Nos. 1 and 2.) Those early years, he recalls, were the “classic startup experience” of working 14-to-15 hour days almost seven days a week.

“There was way too much to do and not enough people to do it,” Mielke said. “At the beginning, I was literally the only person in the lab. I had to machine all my own parts. Everything was from scratch.”

Ablation Industries had a promising start. It won a U.S. Army contract to build an all-fiber optic femtosecond medical laser to treat burn victims -- the first laser small enough to be shipped anywhere and did not need a highly skilled engineer to re-align it. That project led to another DARPA-funded laser -- X-SURFR -- or Extreme Stretched Ultrafast Radiance. This laser housed a first-of-its-kind smart computer-operating system that further cut down the level of human interaction needed to operate it.

Essentially, Mielke said, “It was plug and play.”

When Barry Schuler came on board as CEO in 2004, he changed the name to the more memorable Raydiance, Inc. With the help of venture funding, we soon outgrew our Orlando, Fla., headquarters, and moved to the San Francisco Bay area to tap into the capital and deep photonics knowledge of Silicon Valley.

Then Raydiance circa2006 resized 600

In 2007, we produced our first commercial device, a desktop-sized picosecond pulse laser. Other products soon followed, including the R-100, a compact, fiber-based femtosecond laser. The mostly fiberoptic architecture coupled with a sophisticated computer-operating system made for a more flexible and stable machine for the end user. And that means our solutions are unmatched when it comes to reliability in challenging industrial settings.

Laser Builder to Solutions Provider

But we found that building state-of-the-art lasers was not enough.

“We thought we’d just build the lasers and people would come to us, like in ‘Field of Dreams,’” Mielke said. “But femtosecond laser manufacturing was so new that companies didn’t know how to use it. So we built our applications lab.”

Started in 2007, Raydiance’s applications team helps companies perform feasibility testing, proof of concept, throughput analysis, production strategies and design support for final production. In short, we don’t just build lasers. We help spur innovation by guiding companies to design and manufacture new parts and products that can’t be developed using traditional manufacturing methods.

Consequently, our lasers (10W, 15W and soon 20W) and manufacturing solutions (R-Drill, R-Tube and R-Mill) have been adopted by numerous R&D prototyping and production customers in the medical device, automotive and consumer electronics industries.

 “As a solutions company, we are not selling a laser to meet performance specs,” Mielke said. “We are selling a result.”

Looking Ahead

Raydiance Now 2014 resized 600

Since we began 10 years ago, the field of femtosecond laser manufacturing has greatly expanded. What was once considered only an academic and abstract technology is now seen by many as the future of micromachining manufacturing. In the beginning, Mielke recalled, he was often the only femtosecond laser presenter at conferences. Today, he has plenty of company at industry events.

The evolution of materials is also advancing at a rapid rate, so many possibilities lie ahead, especially in consumer electronics, Mielke added. As this new technology is further adopted by companies producing the world’s most recognized brands, even more design engineers will test the limits of what can be developed.

“We are right on the edge of a big explosion,” Mielke said. “Now designers and manufacturers can go to a blank slate and try something completely different.”

Who knows what the next decade will bring? Stay tuned!

Topics: one step precision manufacturing, femtosecond laser market applications, fiber laser architecture, industrial ultrafast lasers

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