Laser technology offers savings for manufacturing hard materials

August 19, 2014

The National Science Foundation, a US government agency based in Virginia, USA, has reported the development of new technology by scientists at Western Michigan University that could speed up the machining process and make cutting tools last longer.


The first Micro-LAM industrial grade prototype retrofitted on a

diamond turning machining. The system is shown machining

silicon, which is almost impossible to achive without rapid

tool wear using conventional machining processes.

(Image Deepak Ravindra, Micro-LAM Technologies LLC)

Machining, in particular the process of cutting hard, brittle materials during manufacturing, can be difficult, often because the cutting tool, typically made of single crystal diamond can wear out.

“The biggest issue with diamond cutting is that diamonds are expensive,” states John Patten, chair of the manufacturing engineering department at the university and director of its Manufacturing Research Center. “If you can find a way to soften the material it is cutting, that is, expose the diamond to a softer material, it doesn’t wear as much, so you don’t have to replace it as often, having to shut down the machine when you do.”

Patten and his research colleague, Deepak Ravindra, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), developed the new Micro-LAM (Laser Assisted Machining) process, which adds a focused laser to the high pressure diamond cutter. Heat from the laser softens the material, cutting it more quickly, thus conserving the life of the diamond. The new process also results in a smoother surface on the product, making it easier to shape, and eliminating the need for subsequent post-processing smoothing.

“In theory, you cannot make a diamond any harder than it already is, so our only option was to preferentially soften the workpiece material during the manufacturing/machining process,” Ravindra stated. Furthermore, “the technology actually works better at higher speeds,” he adds.

The hybrid tool contributes to less breakage and fracturing, and makes the material stronger, enhancing its integrity. This means savings for manufacturers and, presumably, also for consumers. Potentially, the device could have a major impact in the aerospace and defence industries, including in the manufacture of high powered electronics, computer chips, and lenses, windows and mirrors for optical and laser systems sates the report.

The system “addresses all of the main challenges associated with manufacturing hard and brittle materials such as ceramics and semiconductors,” Ravindra added. It is “a retro-fitable solution provided to manufacturing companies that allows them to machine parts faster, better and cheaper. We truly believe that we will be able to provide our customers with the technology to profitably manufacture superior parts without compromising on material quality.” 

Powder Metallurgy Review magazine:

Your email address:

Useful links: Download PM Review magazine | News headlines | Browse articles 

Recent issue of Powder Metallurgy review - your go-to resource to stay updated on the world of powder metallurgy and metal powders

In the latest issue of PM Review…

PM Review Spring 2023

Download PDF

Extensive Powder Metallurgy industry news coverage, and the following exclusive deep-dive articles and reports:

  • GKN Powder Metallurgy: A strategic vision for the future of permanent magnets for EVs
  • Building trust in the Powder Metallurgy industry: The role of standardisation and an update on recent work by ISO/TC 119
  • High-volume powder production for Additive Manufacturing: SMS group’s continuous metal powder production process
  • Development of enhanced-performance PM brake pads for high-speed trains by Beijing Tianyishangjia New Material Corp., Ltd.
  • The START project: Creating a sustainable supply chain for green energy harvesting products by Powder Metallurgy
  • World PM2022: Reviewing three innovative methods for metal powder production

The latest news from the world of metal powders, delivered to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of PM Review, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Join our community

From the industry…

Discover our magazine archive…

The free-to-access PM Review magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of Powder Metallurgy from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading PM part manufacturers, metal powder manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.


Browse the archive


Looking for PM production equipment, metal powders, R&D support and more?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our
advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of PM Review magazine.

  • Powders & materials
  • Powder process, classification & analysis
  • PM products
  • Atomisers & powder production technology
  • Compaction presses, tooling & ancillaries
  • Sintering equipment & ancillaries
  • Post-processing
  • Consulting & toll sintering
Download PDF
Share via
Copy link