All-Laser Precision Manufacturing Solutions

Predicting the Medtech Future with Polymers and Precision

Posted by Xiang Peng on Fri, Jan 23, 2015

Raydiance_Resonetics_Medical_Polymers (Image courtesy of Resonetics, experts in laser micromachining for life sciences and medical device applications.)

As medical polymers continue to transform implantable devices, Glenn Ogura, vice president of market development for Resonetics, predicts advances in laser micromachining will drive innovation for polymer-based bioabsorbable stents, point-of-care testing and medical devices.    

“New laser technologies have opened up the medical polymer markets,” Ogura explains. “We found the longer laser pulse widths would change the actual weight and material when we worked with drug-eluting stents or scaffolds. We would actually lose some of the material and drug.” 

“Polymers, medical plastics, Teflon®, PTFE and any material that has fluorine content prove challenging to process,” he says. “There are ways to apply lasers, but it can be slow. Fluoropolymers often melt and it is difficult to achieve the feature size. In many cases, femtosecond lasers are really the only way we can work with some of these materials.”

Medical device designers and process engineers increasingly prefer medical polymers to conventional materials, such as metal and glass, because of the superior flexibility in the fabrication process.

Long used for medical packaging and equipment due to the light weight and low cost properties, both conventional medical polymers and bioresorbable polymers are now used for coronary stents, drug-eluting stents (DES), scaffolds and point of care diagnostics.

Medical Polymer Applications and Expertise

Running 50 different laser systems, 24 hours a day, six days a week, Resonetics’ applications work and expertise includes continuous glucose monitoring sensors, polymers, thin films, catheters and balloons, stents, guidewires and point of care cardiovascular, vascular and diabetes diagnostics. 

“Femtosecond lasers now make these possible with more accuracy and faster cycle times,” states Ogura.

Founded in 1987, Resonetics offers a broad range of micromachining applications using a wide variety of excimer, CO2, DPSS, picosecond and femtosecond lasers. 

After Ogura joined the team in 1998, the company shifted focus from telecom, microelectronics and semiconductors to specialize in polymers for life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics.   

“We decided to really focus on one material and one industry,” he says. “Our Lightspeed ADL™ applications development lab offers prototyping services for our customers and once a solution is identified, we evolve the process to high volume manufacturing.”  

Material Success

Ogura recognizes the economic benefits of femtosecond lasers for his company and his customers. The extremely short, but powerful pulses of laser light can break the molecular bonds of nearly any material, even those that normally require ultraviolet (UV) light for bond breaking. Femtosecond athermal ablation enables precision features, tiny dimensions, superior surface qualities and intricate patterns in heat-sensitive polymers.  

Ogura references glass, fused silica and quartz as other applications where any laser (excimer, continuous wave and even nanosecond or picosecond) that relies on thermal material removal could cause cracking and damage. 

“Femtosecond lasers eliminate slag, debris and post processing steps. There are millions of polymer-based medical devices. Femtosecond lasers represent a viable way to produce them in high volume,” he concludes.  

Medtech Challenge?

Raydiance’s R-Tube All-Laser Precision Manufacturing Solution delivers proven results. 

 

About This Week's Expert:

Glenn Ogura leads the development of Resonetic’s life sciences business, leveraging his technical knowledge of laser micromachining and applying it to medical device and diagnostic applications. He previously served in product management and sales positions across the laser industry, designing excimer, CO2 and dye lasers as well as portable laser micromachining systems for scientific and industrial applications. Glenn also spent several years developing industrial laser solutions in Belgium and Germany. He graduated with honors from Queen’s University in Canada with a B.S.in Electrical Engineering.

Resonetics provides laser micromachining contract manufacturing services for medical device and diagnostic manufacturing and other applications requiring precision laser processing. Based in Nashua, New Hampshire, the company offers the world’s largest capacity for laser micromachining polymers in ultra-violet wavelengths, and its expertise with polymers up to 1mm thick and with features as small as one micron is unmatched.

Resonetics currently utilizes Raydiance femtosecond laser solutions in their Lightspeed ADL™ application development lab and high volume manufacturing lines. The company also designs, builds and services purpose-built laser workstations to meet specific customer needs. With more than 25 years of experience building systems and a dedicated development lab staffed with PhDs, optical scientists and automation experts, Resonetics delivers solutions for the most demanding polymer micromachining challenges. 

Topics: implantable medical device manufacturing, MD&M;, femtosecond laser applications, micro manufacturing, material processing, industrial ultrafast laser, medical polymers

Will Femtosecond Lasers Fuel Ultrafast Market Growth in China?

Posted by Xiang Peng on Tue, Jan 13, 2015

Raydiance_R-Cut_OSA

The Advanced Solid State Lasers (ASSL) congress in November, 2014, focused on new applications and technologies for glass processing of medical device and consumer electronics. Casting the spotlight on the growing interest in femtosecond lasers and the rapid development of the fiber laser market across China, the keynotes and presentations were standing room only.

The Optical Society of America (OSA) hosted the much anticipated annual ASSL conference in Shanghai, China this year – combining significant academic research from Advanced Solid State Photonics (ASSP), Advances in Optical Materials (AIOM), and Fiber Laser Applications (FILAS) events into one stellar conference. 

Recent reports from Grand View Research and other laser industry analysts predict high growth to continue in 2015 for the fiber laser segment and Asia Pacific region with accelerated adoption by the consumer electronics, automotive and manufacturing industries.

As China, and the rest of the world, quickly embrace and adapt new laser manufacturing methods, recent developments in femtosecond technology promise to address the specific challenges for manufacturers cutting and fabricating display panels from chemically strengthened glass and other market-driven brittle materials.

Raydiance’s technical paper presentation highlighted the R-Cut solution, the first all-laser micromachining method for Gorilla® glass that achieves exceptional as-cut edge quality for cover glass panel cut-out, chamfer and interior features.

From the presentation stage to the exhibit floor, popular topics for attendees and presenters revolved around the broad range of industrial applications enabled by fiber chirped pulse amplification (CPA) systems and high power, high energy, and high efficiency pulse generation of femtosecond fiber lasers.

Once reserved for use by universities and academic institutions in research and development work, global manufacturers now recognize the rapid commercialization and integration of femtosecond lasers to process new materials, improve factory workflows and reduce costs per part.

Femtosecond solutions deliver superior cycle time and part-to-part quality in a single, non-contact processing step, streamlining the costly and time-consuming fabrication steps required by conventional lasers, computer numerical control (CNC) and hybrid laser methods.

As the global laser industry continues to grow investment in ultrafast, or ultrashort pulse technologies, Raydiance’s proven optical fiber architecture delivers the power, energy and efficiency needed to advance cost-effective and practical femtosecond laser micromachining.

Will All-Laser Precision Solutions Conquer Micromachining Challenges in 2015?

Download Raydiance’s White Paper to find out.

About the Author:

Raydiance_Xiang_Peng

Dr. Xiang Peng is Principal Scientist at Raydiance, Inc. He received his Ph.D. degree in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center (UAOSC) in 2003. Dr. Peng’s work includes development of specialty glass, optical fiber and highly reliable ultrashort pulse fiber laser systems to support Raydiance’s commercial applications for consumer electronics, medical device, and automotive parts laser machining.

He has authored and published 48 peer-reviewed journal papers and conference presentations. Dr. Peng holds 10 issued/pending U.S./Europe patents on specialty and micro-structured optical fibers and ultrashort pulse fiber lasers.

Topics: ultrafast lasers for manufacturing, brittle materials, industrial ultrafast lasers, heatless machining, ASSL - OSA

Class Act: Ultrafast, All-Laser Precision Micromachining Takes Center Stage

Posted by Mike Mielke on Tue, Nov 11, 2014

Dr. Ronald D. Schaeffer, CEO and founder of PhotoMachining, is a popular speaker and laser industry luminary who completes a whirlwind, globe-hopping tour of manufacturing and technology conferences each year.  

Mirroring the rapid market trajectory of industrial lasers, Schaeffer’s travel schedule and many of his courses and “Ask the Expert” sessions now spotlight ultrafast, short pulse (USP) laser technologies.

“USP lasers and beam delivery are really the primary focus,” reports Schaeffer. “Ninety percent of my curriculum used to revolve around excimer lasers.  Now that is down to just a couple of pages.”

Schaeffer suggests the secret to laser micromachining success is selecting the right laser for the job.

Hint:  Laser Pulse Length

Schaeffer quickly takes folks to the picosecond (one trillionth of a second) and femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) laser pulse realm.

Today’s complex features and thinner materials start at 1 mm —the thickness of a dime —and typically approach micron (µm) specifications with small targets or spots that require high pulse energy and shorter pulse length (aka peak power) for precision and control.  

With the swift commercialization of femtosecond lasers, device manufacturers can now achieve far more accurate processing of parts requiring micron scale resolution and exceptional edge quality. Schaeffer is also quick to point out the technology’s positive impact on cost of operations. 

Schaeffer contends the femtosecond pulse regimes enable a broader range of applications with higher quality and cleanliness of finished parts—and require far less post processing steps.  A laser regime effectively defines the pulse train emitted from the laser.  Different pulse trains are used for different materials and different machining effects, i.e. milling, drilling, cutting or any combination of these.

“Our goal at PhotoMachining is to make parts. We want to increase efficiency and cost effectiveness while decreasing the risk of product defects and the need for post processing steps,” says Schaeffer.  “Our expertise is helping clients identify and customize the solutions to deliver superior results and part performance.”

Ron_Schaeffer_PhotoMachining

Watch Ron explain more about lasers in the Laser MicroMachining Video Series.

Femtosecond Applications

Femtosecond lasers enable device manufacturers and contract service providers, like PhotoMachining, to advance design parameters for fuel injector nozzles, solar cells and microfluidics. While materials – including glass, sapphire, medical polymers and silicones— aren’t new, Schaeffer relates that brittle and heat-sensitive materials have accelerated the adoption of femtosecond lasers in production environments as many of the features and microprocessing applications weren’t possible or economically feasible with longer pulse lasers.

“Our USP lasers are constantly booked because there are so many new applications and new areas to explore, states Schaeffer. “The USP lasers present strong market potential and opportunity for business growth.”

Since the longer pulse duration of continuous wave and nanosecond lasers (one billionth of a second) impart heat to material, they are typically used for laser welding  or the creation of larger scale features where recast, melting and burrs—and any subsequent post processing required—will not affect part performance.

Femtosecond laser micromachining continues to streamline manufacturing processes and accelerate materials innovation, displacing picosecond and longer pulse laser technologies, as well as EDM and mechanical tools. 

“I often compare myself to an evangelist – preaching the gospel of lasers. It really is a constant educational process with the vast variety of lasers available today,” explains Schaeffer. “And, I am always surprised by the number of manufacturers I see who still rely on chemical etch and traditional machining.”

Schaeffer and his business partner John O’Connell co-founded PhotoMachining in 1997 to offer specialized, high precision laser micromachining services. Their team is always ready to help manufacturers navigate the transition from mechanical process to all-laser precision manufacturing.

He also devotes time to working with high school and college engineering students as well as Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) student groups, providing them with an inside view on how to start a laser services house.

“I try to teach others how to sell solutions using a common sense, real-world approach to lasers and materials processing,” Schaeffer said.  

Quick Study? Download Raydiance’s Precision Machining without Heat white paper to learn more about lasers, pulse lengths, applications and materials.

About This Week’s Expert:

Dr. Ron Schaeffer and his associates at PhotoMachining in Pelham, New Hampshire offer high precision laser micromachining services for the medical, aerospace, display and microelectronics industries. The company specializes in micro drilling, micro milling and thin film patterning using a variety of DSSP, CO2, excimer and USP lasers.

LIA’s Lasers in Manufacturing Event, ICALEO, IMTS, Fabtech, and Medical Device Manufacturing (MDM) events were just a few of the stops on Schaeffer’s itinerary this fall. He authored Fundamentals of Laser Micromachining in 2012 and frequently contributes articles to Industrial Laser Solutions and MicroManufacturing magazines. Schaeffer earned a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Lehigh University.

Topics: ultrafast lasers for manufacturing, femtosecond laser applications, industrial femtosecond laser applications, industrial ultrafast lasers, US manufacturing

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

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