Machining-the process of working the metals, cutting or chopping them-usually employs diamond tools, which are expensive and will wear out quickly, especially with very hard or brittle materials.If it is difficult to find a material harder than diamond, which is cheap, so the output can be soften the material being cut, machined or lathe.
“If you can find a way to soften the material being cut, i.e. expose the diamond a softer material, he’s not going to wear both, so you won’t have to replace it, often having to turn off the machine every time it needs to be done,” complete Patten.
Laser assisted machining
It was precisely this that Patten and his colleague Deepak Ravindra succeeded: they have developed a system that uses a laser to soften in exact measure the material being worked.
Usually the heat is a problem in machining processes, which require cooling of the tool and the workpiece. But the carefully applied laser heat softens the material just enough for it to be cut or chopped more easily, increasing the service life of the diamond tool.
The hybrid tool also reduced the number of breaks and fractures on the parts, making the material stronger while improving its integrity.
“The system solves all major challenges associated with the manufacture of hard and brittle materials, such as ceramics and semiconductors,” said Ravindra.
The great advantage is that the technique, called Micro-LAM (Laser Assisted Machining), can be used in current equipment, just adding some kind of responsible for the application of the laser head.
The two researchers are already preparing to commercialize his invention with the aid of the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States.