The demand for more intricate nano parts like chips and scales is increasing throughout the world. Micromachining and nanotechnology play an increasingly decisive role in miniaturizing components ranging from biomedical applications to chemical microreactors and sensors. Millions of micromachined devices are used in automobiles and many other mechanical and electronic systems throughout the world. As a result, we are seeing micromachining technology becoming more readily available to meet these demands. Without a doubt, the evolution of these techniques and tools has changed the engineering and production of nanotechnology.
The beginning of micromachines
Micromachining developed in the 1990s as the demand for smaller and more intricate parts arose in the semiconductor and medical industries. Photo Solutions began to develop micromachining techniques to create micro parts with small tools through trial and error. Our early methods were performed with diamond tools and 6k RPM spindle speeds. This was a prolonged machining process and was done only on glass. For higher tolerances (+/-10um), we could only use our wafer saws with 40k spindle speed and were limited to straight cuts (diamond dicing). However, it didn’t prove easy to deliver results to the appropriate scale using these methods.
Introduction of higher-speed spindles
Over time, Photo Solutions upgraded to higher-speed spindles to meet production demands. Where before we were operating on a 6k RPM spindle speed basis, today’s micromachining tools are capable of 40k RPM spindle speeds and can use much smaller diameter tools, down to .5mm DIA due to our milling machines. High-speed spindles create higher RPMs to meet our production demands. This allowed for innovation and advancement within microtechnology for high-airspeed spindles.
Miniature parts made with big technology
Micromachining is the process of creating minute parts with tools smaller than 0.015 inches in diameter with tolerances of just a few tenths. There are different methods to achieve these results. This article will focus on laser, water jet, surface micromachining, and MEMS application.
Sometimes the tiniest parts and their features can create the most significant challenges to manufacture. Many industries require precision to micron-level tolerances. The machines at Photo Solutions help companies of every size meet these exacting tolerances and standards. Micromachining makes what we do possible: it helps us develop intricate parts for specific applications, most commonly for the semiconductor industry.
Micromachining evolved through laser optimization. Using a laser is a unique fabrication process that provides innovative solutions in many microengineering applications for industrial and research-based purposes. Laser micromachining and diamond sawing allow for high accuracy cutting on various substances and a precise non-contact mode machining process.
Detailed in the Science publication “Advances in Laser Materials Processing” by Mehrpouya et al., the microcomponents of laser machining are made with many materials with a complex structure that requires submicron accuracy. This method’s main challenges are complicated stresses, recast layers, and heat-affected zones (HAZs).
Precision and accuracy are the most critical aspects of micromachining with a laser, as micromachining with a laser can cause distortion and alter the metallurgical microstructure. Over time, laser cutting in micromachining evolution proved challenging to create the clean edges required for results needed on small technology parts.
Water jet micromachining, or abrasive water jet technology, is used for micro-milling (removing a small thickness—1 inch or less—to create smooth surfaces) with miniature nozzles. Abrasive water jet (AWJ) is most commonly used with the nozzle tip submerged underwater to contain debris and reduce noise. Without a decrease in the centerline etch rate, submerged AWJM shows narrower geometric features than other micromachining methods performed in the air.
Surface micromachining is a new technology that uses a film layer deposited on the substrate surface as a functioning material for etching. There are different types of surface micromachining: polycrystalline silicon-based, monolithic integration, and metallic thin films for MEMS micromachining.
The micromachining components made from various materials is a vital precision engineering tool that Photo Solutions uses to create our scales and encoder discs. The main benefit of surface micromachining with different film layer values is that the moveable structures are made from a single crystalline device for excellent, well-defined mechanical properties and high reliability.
MEMS, micro-electromechanical systems, are composed of microsensors, microprocessors, microactuators, units for data processing, and internal mechanisms that can interact with exterior pieces. The physical dimensions of MEMS can range from several millimeters to less than one micrometer. That’s a dimension smaller than the width of a hair.
Micromachining using electrochemical discharges, MEMS, is a relatively new method. The integration of complex micromachined parts with microprocessors with integrated circuit devices, ICs, can create cost-effective MEMS, electromechanical systems.
Advantages of micromachining
We provide micromachining for microfluidic devices, small hole drilling, and slots for various photonic devices, including windows and microscope slides. We work from customer drawings and specifications to provide precision parts on hard-to-machine materials like glass, quartz, sapphire, and ceramics.
In addition to Photo Solutions’ photonic device manufacturing capabilities, we offer high tolerance machining of customer-provided materials such as PET, Kapton, ceramics, glass, and other difficult-to-machine materials. We can accurately machine features on substrates using our vision recognition equipment, holding registration as tight as +/- 5um.
Micromachining, diamond dicing, and laser cutting services made possible
Whether your materials require diamond dicing, laser cutting, or CNC diamond glass machining, we have options to meet your exact needs. These capabilities are readily available through our services channel. You can fill out an inquiry form with your specifications and application uses, and we will get back to you with all the details you need for your next project.