Laser assisted micro milling of hard materials
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This thesis presents an investigation of novel laser assisted micromachining processes that addresses the limitations of micromachining of hard-to-machine materials. Two different laser assisted approaches are used to machine hard metals and high strength ceramics. For hard metals, the basic approach involves localized thermal softening of the workpiece material by focusing a solid-state continuous wave near infra-red laser beam in front of the micro milling tool (end mills of 0.1 to 0.5 mm diameter). By suitably controlling the laser power, spot size and scan speed, it is possible to produce a sufficiently large reduction in the flow strength of the work material and consequently the cutting forces and tool deflections. A force model is developed to predict the cutting forces in Laser Assisted Micro Milling (LAMM) of hard metals. For high strength ceramics, the approach involves use of a two step process. In the first step, thermal cracks are generated in a confined volume by the steep thermal gradients generated by laser irradiation of the workpiece. In the second step, the weakened region is removed by a micro grinding tool. The characterization and modeling of the process serve as bases for users of the two approaches to select optimal process parameters.