Product Code: ICAL08_1909

Computer Simulation of Laser Material Removal: Measuring the Depth of Penetration in Laser Engraving
Hamidreza Karbasi, Conestoga College; Kitchener ON Canada
Presented at ICALEO 2008

Laser engraving is becoming an appealing option for those applications where previously Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) was the only choice because of its advantages with practicability, time and cost. Laser engraving technology removes material in a layer-by-layer fashion and the thickness of layers is usually in the range of a few microns and it is depending on several parameters such as the specimen material, laser power, Transverse Electromagnetic Mode (TEM), and beam traverse speed. The crucial first step in the setup process is to find out the depth of material which will be removed in each layer and is traditionally done off-line by trial-and-error technique. This is a lengthy process in which the operator must alter the laser parameters such as power and traverse speed gradually and use a microscope to examine the quality and measure the depth of removed material. For new materials, which may be very expensive, this process could take weeks and become very costly.
The main purpose of this research project was to develop a proof of concept software that could simulate the geometry of engraved surface and estimate the depth and width of an engraved groove and its associated laser parameters.
For simulation purposes, COMSOL was used to simulate the moving laser beam as a source of heat over physical domain made of different materials. Through interaction modeling of selected materials with the laser beam in TEM01 mode, the temperature distribution was determined. The temperature is the key parameter to determining the geometry of an engraved groove. As the laser heated the material and the temperature passed the vaporization point at high power intensity, the density of the material would switch to the density of air to form the groove. The simulation results were validated by several experiments.
The simulation software can be improved to include more parameters and become a basis for a powerful laser engraving simulation package. The benefits of such a package would be big saving in setup time and material costs for customers who are testing laser engraving on the new and expensive materials. The software would also be an effective tool for the development and evaluation of new engraving techniques with an eye towards reducing wear-and-tear on the actual laser engraving machine and the elimination of a destructive testing procedure.

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